IndyCar 2016 Silly Season, Round 2

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Not a ton has changed since the last Verizon IndyCar Series silly season update we did in November and to be honest, not a ton will change between now and next month’s Test in the West official preseason test opener at Phoenix International Raceway, February 26-27.

Nonetheless, following Sage Karam’s announcement with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing-Kingdom Racing for the Indianapolis 500 on Thursday night, it’s a good time to put everything down by team:

CONFIRMED CAR/DRIVER COMBINATIONS (24, 18 Full Season, 6 Partial Season):

  • Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet (3): 9-Scott Dixon, 10-Tony Kanaan, 83-Charlie Kimball
  • Team Penske, Chevrolet (4): 2-Juan Pablo Montoya, 12-Will Power, 3-Helio Castroneves, 22-Simon Pagenaud
  • Andretti Autosport, Honda (3): 26-Carlos Munoz, 27-Marco Andretti, 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Honda (2): 5-James Hinchcliffe, 7-Mikhail Aleshin
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Honda (2): 14-Takuma Sato, 41-Jack Hawksworth
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Honda (2): 15-Graham Rahal, TBD-Spencer Pigot (3 races)
  • CFH Racing, Chevrolet (2): 67-Josef Newgarden, 20-Ed Carpenter (ovals only)
  • Dale Coyne Racing, Honda (2): 18-Conor Daly, 88-Bryan Clauson (Indianapolis 500 only, with Jonathan Byrd’s Racing)
  • KVSH Racing, Chevrolet (1): 11-Sebastien Bourdais (not formally confirmed by team but has said to multiple media outlets, including MST, he’ll return)
  • PIRTEK Team Murray, Chevrolet (1): 61-Matthew Brabham (2 races, technical partnership with KV Racing Technology)
  • Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, TBA (1): 24-Sage Karam (Indianapolis 500 only)
  • Grace Autosport, TBD (1): TBD-Katherine Legge (Indianapolis 500 only)

Notes from that list above:

  • There’s no engine changes for 2016 between the confirmed entries. Right now Chevrolet has 9 full-season confirmed entries (Ganassi 3, Penske 4, CFH 1, KVSH 1) with extras for the partial races. Honda’s 9 full-season confirmed cars (Andretti 3, SPM 2, Foyt 2, RLL 1, Coyne 1) also will feature additional extras.
  • DRR did not formally confirm an engine partner in its Indianapolis 500 release. However, its livery renderings featured a Chevrolet logo, and as the team has raced with Chevrolet in the past, it is likely the team will continue.
  • Grace Autosport has not identified its team partner or engine partner as yet, but the Beth Paretta-led organization continues its efforts in preparation for its debut at the Indianapolis 500.

POTENTIAL OR LIKELY EXTRA CARS:

  • Bryan Herta Autosport, first car. The seat that’s been pegged for months for Gabby Chaves, last year’s Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar series rookie-of-the-year, but not officially confirmed as yet, may change hands if Jack Harvey’s hopes turn to reality. Harvey spoke to my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith last week at the Autosport Show and addressed the possibility he could find a way here. To be honest, given his ability and potential, it would be a damn shame for Chaves if he were to lose this ride this late in the winter. Plus, the irony of a potential loss to Harvey – whom he edged on a tiebreak for the 2014 Indy Lights title – wouldn’t be lost on anyone. In a perfect world, both Chaves and Harvey would have seats in 2016.
  • Dale Coyne Racing, second and fourth cars (fourth Indy 500 only). We know Dale’s second full-season car will be at St. Petersburg, and likely the Phoenix test before it. We do not know who Dale’s second driver will be. “TBA” has the 19 car on lockdown until then. As for the fourth for the Indianapolis 500, both projected driver Pippa Mann and the Coyne team are working diligently to make the “this isn’t quite official yet but it’s damn close” conversation at PRI in December a reality sooner rather than later. Mann discussed that in her latest blog post.
  • Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth car. Ganassi managing director Mike Hull told MST in December the team plans to continue with a fourth car, and is keen to have it out by the February test. We’d noted at the time that “one Indy Lights driver from 2015” was in the running for it. That said driver, Max Chilton,was identified in a RACER.com report earlier this week and Chip Ganassi actually “liked” one of Chilton’s recent tweets – if you’re into reading the tea leaves, you could put two and two together here.
  • Andretti Autosport, fourth car. Less said here of late about what was a part-time entry for, as it turned out, a three-driver group of Simona de Silvestro, the late Justin Wilson and Sonoma driver Oriol Servia. If NBCSN IndyCar contributor Robin Miller is right from his latest Mailbag post, this could be the landing spot for Sebastian Saavedra and AFS Racing – which would make sense given Saavedra/AFS and Andretti have worked together on multiple prior occasions.
  • CFH Racing, second car (road/street courses). No word yet whether the No. 20 will continue for all races beyond the ovals. Ed Carpenter, as noted above, will drive the five oval races.
  • Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, second car (Indy 500). Don’t rule out an extra possible entry for the ‘500 itself from the Dennis Reinbold-led team.
  • Lazier Racing (Indy 500). No word on whether Buddy Lazier and his family team will return but if they’ve got a chassis and an engine in the back still, it would stand to reason that they’d make a run again in 2016.
  • A.N. Other Team/Entrants: Pick your combination of other teams, past extra entries or other drivers who could find a way to the grid for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

DRIVERS TO WATCH:

If money were no object, you’d love to see any or all of these drivers in seats either for the full season or for the Indianapolis 500, beyond those already listed above:

  • Veterans such as Alex Tagliani, Oriol Servia, Ryan Briscoe, Townsend Bell, Bruno Junqueira and Michel Jourdain Jr.
  • Younger rising stars such as Simona de Silvestro, JR Hildebrand, Tristan Vautier, Stefan Wilson, E.J. Viso, Luca Filippi, James Jakes and Rodolfo Gonzalez

The lists could go on. But the bottom line as ever is that remains a glut of drivers on the outside looking in compared to the number of available seats, which is the same story as usual for this time of the year.