2015 Indianapolis 500 entry update, Round 2

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A handful more changes have occurred to this year’s Indianapolis 500 entry list over the last couple weeks. Here’s what’s developed since our first update earlier this month:

WHAT’S BEEN CONFIRMED

  • Chip Ganassi Racing Teams: The confirmation of Sebastian Saavedra in an AFS-backed fifth car for the month of May was a surprise. Notable in the team release was the phrase “with an additional race at the Indianapolis 500 through a fifth entry overseen by CGRT,” not necessarily confirming it as a CGRT-entered car. Watch the team name for Saavedra’s entry for the race. Sage Karam has been formally confirmed in the team’s fourth car, the No. 8 car.
  • CFH Racing: JR Hildebrand (No. 6 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet) joins the all-American pairing of Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden for the month of May. No word on if a photo shoot involving “Old Glory” and/or a bald eagle will follow.
  • Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing: NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell is confirmed in Dennis Reinbold’s single No. 24 Robert Graham Chevrolet. The livery will be unveiled on the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend, and the team will retain many of its same DRR personnel, including engineer Jeff Britton.
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Veteran Oriol Servia will saddle up in the team’s second car for a second straight year.
  • Dale Coyne Racing: Pippa Mann will be back for her third straight Indianapolis 500, and second with Susan G. Komen. The identity of her teammates, however, is now a mystery.
  • KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing: Bryan Clauson will run the No. 88 for the team this year. The No. 82, the original number listed, was a placeholder.
  • Bryan Herta Autosport: Jay Howard’s second entry has been withdrawn, leaving BHA as the lone full-season team running a single car at the 500 for rookie Gabby Chaves.

WHAT’S STILL TBD

  • Dale Coyne Racing: As mentioned above, Mann is the only confirmed driver in what is still on target to be a three-car lineup for Coyne’s squad. Carlos Huertas and Francesco Dracone ran the opening two races, Rocky Moran Jr. and then Conor Daly filled out the No. 18 car in Long Beach, and Dracone is due to run the fourth of his four-race program at Barber. If one seat was already a question mark, now it’s two.
  • Honda’s potential 17th engine: Steve Eriksen, Honda Performance Development COO and vice president, said Honda is still on track to supply 17 engines at Indy. “Our plan from the very beginning has always been for 17 cars at Indy. We always planned to support more than half the field. At 17 cars, that’s a good number for us from a resource standpoint. Based on what I’m hearing from each of our teams, I fully expect we’ll be at 17 cars for the month of May. I’ve also heard Chevy’s at 17. So, if that’s true, that gives us at least one car for Bump Day.” The expected breakdown of Hondas as it stands is: 5 Andretti, 3 Schmidt Peterson, 3 Coyne, 2 RLL, 2 Foyt and 1 Herta. That would mean a 17th – if it happens – could go to a potential Foyt third car, which hasn’t been on the radar for a while.
  • Drivers in play: The five names linked to potential opportunities but currently without confirmed rides are Daly, James Davison, Ryan Briscoe, Alex Tagliani and Katherine Legge. The first two have one ‘500 start apiece, Legge has two and Briscoe and Tagliani is the best of the bunch in terms of experience and stat levels; both are past Indianapolis 500 polesitters. It’s possible to see up to three or perhaps four of those five in seats. Others are possible, but these five have been mentioned by several paddock insiders.

ENTRY LIST AS IT STANDS (Italics denote highly likely but not officially confirmed)

CHEVROLET (17)

  • Team Penske (4): 1-Will Power, 2-Juan Pablo Montoya-W, 3-Helio Castroneves-W, 22-Simon Pagenaud
  • KV Racing Technology (1): 4-Stefano Coletti-R
  • KVSH Racing (1): 11-Sebastien Bourdais
  • KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing (1): 88-Bryan Clauson
  • Chip Ganassi Racing Teams (5): 8-Sage Karam, 9-Scott Dixon-W, 10-Tony Kanaan-W, 83-Charlie Kimball, 17-Sebastian Saavedra (team name may be different)
  • CFH Racing (3): 6-JR Hildebrand, 20-Ed Carpenter, 21-Josef Newgarden
  • Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing (1): 24-Townsend Bell
  • Lazier Partners Racing (1): 91-Buddy Lazier-W

HONDA (16-17)

  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (3): 5-James Hinchcliffe, 7-James Jakes, TBA-third car
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (2-3): 14-Takuma Sato, 41-Jack Hawksworth, TBA-possible third car
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2): 15-Graham Rahal, 16-Oriol Servia
  • Dale Coyne Racing (3): 18-TBA, 19-TBA, 63-Pippa Mann
  • Andretti Autosport (5): 25-Justin Wilson, 26-Carlos Munoz, 27-Marco Andretti, 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay-W, 29-Simona de Silvestro
  • Bryan Herta Autosport (1): 98-Gabby Chaves-R

Even with half the purse and no fans, Indy 500 still has major team value

Indy 500 purse fans
Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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Even with reportedly half the purse and no fans in attendance, NTT IndyCar Series driver-owner Ed Carpenter believes it remains “absolutely critical” to hold the 104th Indy 500.

“Far and away it’s what makes and breaks our season as teams,” the Ed Carpenter Racing namesake told reporters during a Zoom media availability last week. “It’s the most important event to our partners. It 100 percent sucks not having fans there and not even being able to have the experience with our partners in full being there. But it’s necessary.

“We’ve got to look at all the hard decisions now of what we have to do to be in a position to have fans in 2021. It’s critical for the health of the teams that we have this race to make sure we have teams back here next year. That sounds a little dramatic, but that’s the reality.

HOW TO WATCH THE INDY 500 ON NBCDetails for the Aug. 23 race

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“We live in not only a very volatile world right now, but our industry and motorsport in general, it’s not an easy business to operate. When you lose your marquee event, it’s a lot different than looking at losing Portland on the schedule or Barber. They’re in totally different atmospheres as far as the importance to us and our partners.”

Robin Miller reported on RACER.com that IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske told team owners last week the purse for the postponed Indianapolis 500 was slashed from $15 to $7.5 million. Miller reported holding the Aug. 23 race (1 p.m. ET, NBC) would be a $20 million hit to the bottom line.

Carpenter still is supportive of Penske’s “outstanding job” of leading the series through the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Even with a 50 percent purse reduction, the Indy 500 remains the linchpin of teams’ economic viability.

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The schedule has taken many hits with the cancellation of races at Barber Motorsports Park, Circuit of the Americas, Detroit, Portland International Raceway, Laguna Seca and Toronto, and another race weekend doubleheader at Mid-Ohio has been indefinitely postponed.

That leaves the 2020 slate at 12 confirmed races of an original 17, which has raised questions about how many races teams need to fulfill sponsor obligations.

“It’s a moving target,” said Carpenter, who announced the U.S. Space Force as a new sponsor for the Indy 500. “I think we’ve been pretty blessed as a team with the level of commitment of our partners and their understanding of COVID-19 and the impact on our schedule, our contracts.

“All of it is out of our control, out of the series’ control, the promoter’s control. At the end of the day is there a firm number (of races) I can give? No. But definitely every one that we lose, it does make it harder to continue having those conversations.

I think everyone’s as confident as you can be right now with what we have in front of us with what’s remaining on the schedule. Things are so fluid, it changes day-to-day, let alone week-to-week. We just have to take it as it comes. Right now the focus is on the 500 and maximizing this month to the best we possibly can given the situation.”

That’ll be hard this month for Carpenter, who grew up in Indianapolis and is the stepson of Tony George, whose family owned Indianapolis Motor Speedway for decades.

Having spent a lifetime around the Brickyard, Carpenter will feel the ache of missing fans as he races in his 17th Indy 500.

Ed Carpenter, shown racing his No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet at Iowa Speedway last month, led a race-high 65 laps and finished second in the 2018 Indy 500 (Chris Jones/IndyCar).

“Over that time you develop relationships that are centered around standing outside of your garage in Gasoline Alley,” he said. “It stinks, it sucks that we don’t get to share that passion we all have that is the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately it’s the reality we’re in right now.

I think this is the best that we can do unfortunately. Without a doubt it’s going to be a different environment. You’re going to be missing the sounds and a lot of the sights and colors. For sure I’ve thought about it. It’s going to be a different morning, different lead-in to the race. After 16 of them, you have a cadence and anticipation for the buildup. That’s all going to be different this year.

“I’m confident it’s not going to affect the type of show we put on or the excitement and how aggressive we are fighting for an Indy 500 win. It’s still going to mean the same thing. We’re just not going to have our fans to celebrate with after the fact. But it’s going to be historic.”