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.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.