Daly in 2013. Photo: Getty Images

Reports: Daly, Jones set for Foyt, Coyne 2017 confirmations

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Before the U.S. Presidential Election went down on Tuesday night, the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series silly season burst open again in the hours before it.

First up was A.J. Foyt Enterprises, where Conor Daly had always been in the frame for one of the two seats but without hedging his bets of being too confident, looks set to secure the second seat there (via Motorsport.com, later via RACER.com).

Daly made his IndyCar debut with Foyt in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 before driving a partial season with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Dale Coyne Racing in 2015, and a full season with Coyne in 2016.

Foyt has not yet confirmed its impending switch from Honda to Chevrolet engines and aero kits – nor either driver – but it would be set for a major upheaval of change provided the i’s get dotted and t’s get crossed once contracts are signed and things become official.

In a sentence, Foyt would go from Honda/Takuma Sato/Jack Hawksworth to Chevrolet/likely Carlos Munoz/Conor Daly as a package, and that’s before you get into engineering and other team personnel there. Interesting times ahead.

Coyne, meanwhile, said during an October conference call after Sebastien Bourdais’ confirmation that he was hoping to have both his seats finalized by November.

It doesn’t appear he was kidding.

“Yes. We announced last year earlier than ever in the 18 car,” Coyne said on October 12. “We’re working very close to some programs with all the usual suspects to get something done here by the end of this month so we’ll know both of our drivers going into November.

“We have more tests planned. I should add that this is a two-year program with Sebastien. This is not just a one-year program. It’s two years and possibly more. So we’re excited about that. Especially next year with the equalizer coming in 2018 with an aero kit the same for everyone, I think that will really help us.

“But not sure which car number Sebastien will be in yet. We’re still working on lots of sponsorship programs. Depending on how that comes out, that will determine whether it’s the 18 or the 19. We got a lot of things going and are very excited to be in this position this early.”

That second driver looks set to be Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Ed Jones, which isn’t the Indy Lights graduate many folks pegged for the seat alongside Bourdais. Following a string of three impressive end-of-year outings, RC Enerson had raised his stock and figured to get a good look in a full-season role there.

However, RACER.com has now pegged Jones in the second car. The Dubai-based Brit admitted to NBC Sports in the days after securing his Indy Lights title he’d had conversations with multiple teams and hoped to get a deal done within the month.

The question was always whether he’d be able to stretch his confirmed three races via winning the $1 million Mazda advancement scholarship into a full-season opportunity with the necessary budget to do so.

Neither seat has yet been confirmed by the respective teams, as noted, but these two fillings would reduce the already dwindling number of available slots left in the 2017 field.

NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations, including NHRA Summernationals, effective immediately

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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”