IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Remaining part-time entrants

Simona de Silvestro. Photo: AP
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MotorSportsTalk concludes its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with these drivers who raced in three or fewer events:

30. Simona de Silvestro (3 starts)
31. JR Hildebrand (2 starts)
32. Oriol Servia (2 starts)
33. Mikhail Aleshin (1 start)
35. Townsend Bell (1 start)
36. Carlos Huertas (3 starts)
37. Alex Tagliani (1 start)
38. James Davison (1 start)
39. Bryan Clauson (1 start)
N/R. Buddy Lazier (1 DNQ)
N/R. Rocky Moran Jr. (1 Practice)
N/R. Davey Hamilton (1 Test)

The sample size was too small and too infrequent to merit much more than a one-paragraph review for these drivers. Here are quick recaps of the races where they made an appearance:

Simona de Silvestro, Nos. 25 and 29 Andretti Autosport Honda

The likable, talented and popular Swiss made a welcome return in the best equipment she’s ever had. Problem was, it was only for the season opener, which then grew into two further races. Fourth in NOLA owed more to strategy and it briefly had her top-10 in points, but she endured a tough Indy 500 in her last IndyCar appearance this season.

JR Hildebrand, No. 6 CFH Racing Chevrolet 

Was unlucky to have not finished higher than he did in his two month of May starts for CFH Racing. Gambled on strategy at the Grand Prix and had a potential top-six in his grasp before a rough final pit stop; meanwhile banked his second straight one-off top-10 in the Indy 500 in P8. Deserves more starts in 2016.

Oriol Servia, No. 32 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda and No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda 

An Indy 500 pre-race sleeper, Servia didn’t get to send the David Letterman special in Ray Harroun livery into Victory Lane, ending in the wall after contact with Ed Carpenter. But Servia’s grace, fortitude and determination shone through in what was Justin Wilson’s No. 25 Honda in a last-minute call-up at Sonoma.

Mikhail Aleshin, No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

The likable Russian made a surprise, welcome return to the IndyCar field at Sonoma in a third car and scored a top-10 finish after qualifying the highest of the three cars. It plants the seed for a potential full-time return in 2016.

Carlos Huertas, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

“Grumpy Cat” made a surprise last-minute return ahead of St. Petersburg and nearly finished second at NOLA on strategy before an inglorious and unfortunate spin under yellow. The surprises continued when he mysteriously disappeared for two races, then came back for Indy, qualified well for the ‘500, then suffered an inner ear condition and removed from the cockpit once more.

Townsend Bell, No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing Chevrolet 

NBCSN’s IndyCar analyst made his usual Indy 500 appearance, but without the desired result despite great pit work from the DRR crew and early month promise. You can view his month of May blogs for MotorSportsTalk here, and the third year of our annual “Ten with Townsend” series here.

Alex Tagliani, No. 48 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda

Had a cool car with a Gurney tribute livery driving for Foyt, led a lap again on pit strategy and finished his usual mid-teens in his second straight one-off Indy 500.

James Davison, No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda 

Davison’s practice speed was impressive given limited running, but his lone race start ended ingloriously following a pit road collision that hit two crewmembers.

Bryan Clauson, No. 88 KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing Chevrolet 

The short-track ace and the popular Jonathan Byrd’s name returned to IMS after several year hiatuses and more often than not, it showed in a tough month.

Buddy Lazier, No. 91 Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet

The 1996 Indy 500 champ found qualifying with a new aero kit, a deeper field and limited on-track running a tougher challenge this time around than in 2013 or 2014.

Rocky Moran Jr., No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

Moran was due to make a surprise, but welcome, debut at Long Beach before a hand injury derailed and sidelined him after an accident in practice. Conor Daly took over the ride for the rest of the weekend.

Davey Hamilton, No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing Chevrolet

Hamilton made his competitive one-day return in an official session filling in for T-Bell during the first day of oval kit testing at IMS.