IndyCar: What’s Honda’s next move, driver-wise?

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A trying 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season featured one major highlight for Honda: the Indianapolis 500 triumph with Ryan Hunter-Reay.

But that was about it in a year that was arguably one of the toughest for the stalwart stakeholders of IndyCar.

In the Manufacturer’s Championship, Chevrolet defeated Honda 2293-1889, and that was with Chevrolet losing 100 points at the season finale at Auto Club Speedway for various penalties. In only six of 18 races did Honda outscore Chevrolet under the new Manufacturer’s Championship points.

It marks the third straight Manufacturer’s title for Chevrolet since General Motors rejoined the championship in 2012.

On the driver front, Honda has lost two of its marquee drivers. Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) and Josef Newgarden (CFH Racing) are now aligned with Chevrolet teams; Newgarden doesn’t switch teams, but the merged CFH squad takes the Chevrolets run by Ed Carpenter Racing rather than the Hondas utilized by Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Meanwhile Pagenaud, a longtime Honda driver, saddles up with Chevrolet at Team Penske.

It leaves Honda in a bit of a quandary on the driver front, as well as the team front.

As it stands now, Chevrolet has at least 12 cars – four apiece from Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing, and two apiece from CFH and KV Racing (or whatever KV’s second team name will be known as).

Andretti Autosport leads Honda’s contingent with four cars of their own, with at least three of their drivers (Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz) confirmed for 2015. Then there’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Dale Coyne Racing with two cars apiece, and single cars from A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Bryan Herta Autosport.

The next likely domino to fall is James Hinchcliffe, who could well become the face of Honda assuming he stays with the manufacturer. Hinchcliffe is a potential replacement for Pagenaud at SPM if he doesn’t re-sign with Andretti.

Justin Wilson is also a flagship member of Honda’s lineup, and it would behoove the manufacturer to ensure Wilson has a quality ride with either Andretti or SPM as his Coyne tenure could well be at an end.

There remain the big last names – Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal both are Honda drivers for 2015 – that Honda can utilize if they become regular race winners and title contenders.

The goal now for Honda, ideally, would be to keep Hinch and Wilson on board besides RHR.

It’s just the items like this (Pagenaud and Newgarden in a cornfield, Pagenaud in an Acura commercial) that are being left behind.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”