IndyCar’s final five seats still to play for over next few weeks

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There’s been little to no movement on the IndyCar driver front since the start of the new year. But at this point in the winter, if you haven’t got your program set, you’re likely to start the 2014 season off on the back foot with limited testing before the March 30 St. Petersburg season opener.

As it stands, there are five full-time seats remaining to be filled. They are:

  • Bryan Herta Autosport’s first seat
  • Panther Racing’s first seat
  • Second seats at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, KV Racing and Dale Coyne Racing

Those seats, when they are filled, would push the projected full-season number of cars to 24. So far, 19 seats have been filled, with only Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet operating under a ride-share format between Carpenter and Mike Conway.

We last updated the IndyCar silly season roster and free agent pool in December … and we could pretty much write the same thing now.

The biggest difference since that point is seeing which drivers took the opportunity to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, opening round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season. Those who raced there included: E.J. Viso, Tristan Vautier, Sebastian Saavedra, Alex Tagliani, James Davison, Conor Daly, Townsend Bell, Katherine Legge, Sam Bird and Sage Karam.

Of the above list, Saavedra, Tagliani, Daly and perhaps Bird could still be in play for full-time IndyCar seats. Karam’s hopes seem to be more aligned with whatever Chip Ganassi opts to do with him in a development-type program. Viso could still spring a surprise after speaking with him in Daytona.

Veterans Oriol Servia and James Jakes are likely to be in play for the “final five”; JR Hildebrand could be, although he just revealed a partial move to Colorado this week; and Simona de Silvestro’s name has fallen off the radar a bit since the dawn of the new year. She was not in Indianapolis for the series’ winter meetings, but did resurface as a guest instructor for the SAFEisFAST online driving tutorial series.

Herta’s and Panther’s seats have been linked to just one driver over the winter, Luca Filippi (Herta) and Carlos Huertas (Panther) respectively. But despite the overtones each team has made to the driver, or vice versa, nothing is set in stone there yet for either single-car operation. Both, additionally, have had PR rep changes over the winter with longtime team veterans moving onto other opportunities.

Which leaves the second cars at the other teams. RLL has a strong engineering base, but has yet to confirm the commercial partners on its second car. KV is still in the process of determining whether its second car will be run as a sole KV or joint KVSH entry, with team partner James “Sulli” Sullivan. Coyne’s second car, as always, remains a question mark.

This post may not answer any questions, but the read at this juncture is that there’s perhaps eight or nine drivers in contention for the final five seats on the IndyCar grid. It’s certainly a smaller list than earlier this winter; however, there’s still no telling who will gather the budgets necessary to fill the field, at what team and at what time.

Pagenaud leads no-tow times in Sunday practice

Photo: IndyCar
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Sunday practice ahead of Day 2 of qualifying for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 was split into two groups – one for the drivers who ended Saturday qualifying in positions 10-33, and one for the drivers who made the Fast Nine Shootout for the Pole.

In the combined times, Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest overall. But, Simon Pagenaud topped the all-important no-tow speeds with a lap of 229.409 mph.

Pagenaud’s Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, and Will Power were second, third, and fourth on the no-tow chart – and they were also the only four drivers from the Top 9 who went out for practice.

Of the drivers who qualifying between positions 10 through 33, Alexander Rossi had the quickest no-tow speed of 227.779 mph.

Combined results are below. Qualifying begins at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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