With one month-plus til St. Petersburg, still plenty on outside looking in


The Verizon IndyCar Series silly season is down to, in all likelihood, four full-time remaining seats left to fill. Those four are the fourth car at Andretti Autosport, the second car at KV Racing Technology and the two cars at Dale Coyne Racing.

But there are still plenty of drivers on the outside looking in, or with their plans yet to be confirmed, for IndyCar and the rest of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder before the March 29 St. Petersburg opener. Here’s a look at who’s left standing, beyond what we wrote last winter:

  • Justin Wilson: Widely linked to Andretti’s fourth seat, but still in a waiting game on budget. The later the offseason gets, and the closer the St. Petersburg opener approaches, it becomes more dangerous as to whether the driver known as “Bad ass” will be back for a 12th season in IndyCar.
  • Ryan Briscoe: Unlikely to land a full-time opportunity, Briscoe’s best odds may be for an Indianapolis 500-only seat alongside his Corvette Racing commitments at Sebring and Le Mans.
  • Carlos Huertas, Sebastian Saavedra: The pair of Colombians finalized late deals last offseason, and would need to be in a position to do likewise if they are to return for their second and fourth full-time seasons, respectively.
  • Simona de Silvestro: Reportedly making waves about an IndyCar comeback, and has IndyCar photos linked to her social media pages, but thus far not publicly confirmed to one of the remaining seats.
  • Oriol Servia, JR Hildebrand: Two former teammates but not on the brink of anytime full-time. Outside of 2010, Servia’s been on an IndyCar grid every year since 2000. Hildebrand’s best shot was at CFH Racing, but that road/street course slot went to Luca Filippi.
  • Conor Daly, Alexander Rossi: Daly was the “people’s pick” for the SPM second car that has now gone to James Jakes, but now in an utter predicament, career-wise. Focused on IndyCar after parts of four years in Europe, but it might be too late on either side of the pond for anything decent full-time, now. Rossi is in a similar predicament; he was shown to have a seat fitting at Dale Coyne Racing toward the end of 2014, but hasn’t had additional news follow.
  • The rest of the testers: Right now Stefano Coletti, Davide Valsecchi, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Rocky Moran Jr. and Daniel Abt all have one thing in common: they’ve all tested at least once this offseason and could well be in the frame for the remaining seats. Coletti and Gonzalez appear closer to seats than the other three at the moment.
  • Zach Veach, A.N. Other: Veach is another of several linked to the vacant Andretti seat. Every year there always seems to be at least one surprise driver nominated who shows up late in the game, usually in the second Dale Coyne Racing car, so it would be weird to expect anything different this year.

Also of note, talented young drivers Sage Karam and Scott Hargrove are only confirmed for St. Petersburg in their respective No. 8 cars in both IndyCar and Indy Lights. Karam will make his Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar debut (second overall start), while Hargrove will be behind the wheel of 8Star Motorsports’ chassis for both the driver and team’s Indy Lights debut.

Talented prospect and past Pro Mazda/USF2000 champion Matthew Brabham, who raced in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport last year, also is yet to have his program finalized for this season.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”