Extra Indy 500 entries come clearer into focus at PIR test

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During the weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, several Verizon IndyCar Series team owners expressed where they’re at in terms of adding an extra car for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, beyond those extra entries already announced.

As we forecast on MotorSportsTalk a couple weeks ago, figuring out where the extra cars come from will be a bit of a challenge, but here’s what we think we gathered after this weekend:

  • Michael Andretti is targeting five cars for Andretti Autosport, with a fifth car to join the already announced four. “The goal is to do five,” he said.
  • Jimmy Vasser, team co-owner of KVSH Racing with Kevin Kalkhoven and James “Sulli” Sullivan, also wants to see KVSH Racing add a third car beyond Sebastien Bourdais – who was only formally confirmed on Saturday – and the PIRTEK Team Murray car driven by Matthew Brabham. “We’re still trying to put together (another car),” Vasser told NBC Sports this weekend. “We have the Matty Brabham effort, but we want to add a good third car. We did four a couple years ago, but that was a last-minute thing with (James) Davison, to help get the car number up.”
  • Ric Peterson, co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, told NBC Sports he hopes to have SPM’s third car for the ‘500 sorted within the next several weeks. Given how nicely Gabby Chaves fit in, filling in for Mikhail Aleshin this test, Chaves could be a good fit here.
  • Another unrelated Peterson – Gary Peterson – also figures to have a landing spot for his AFS Racing entry with Sebastian Saavedra the likely driver, but with what team and engine manufacturer remains to be seen.
  • In a brief chat with Ed Carpenter, he didn’t seem particularly optimistic about the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet entry running for all races beyond the five ovals. Although he said two cars only would be likely for the ‘500 during media day, it’s certainly possible the team could run a third.
  • Dale Coyne told NBC Sports that Pippa Mann’s program is still on target, with an engineer already in place for what would be that team’s fourth car along with Conor Daly, Bryan Clauson, and the second full-season driver (Luca Filippi is ‘close’ but not final, per the team).
  • Didn’t have a chance to catch up with A.J. Foyt Enterprises and its new team director George Klotz to gauge that team’s status for an extra car, as it usually adds a third car.
  • Per Trackside Online, Buddy Lazier was at PIR and is likely to return with his family-run effort.
  • As noted last week, nothing’s finalized engine-wise for Grace Autosport.

Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and Team Penske each have four cars set, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing two and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing one. Judging by current projections, it would be a surprise if any of these three teams was to add an extra car.

Drivers who you figure should or will be in the conversations to fill seats include NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell, Oriol Servia, JR Hildebrand, Chaves, Saavedra, Stefan Wilson, Tristan Vautier and Alex Tagliani, with others possible. Simona de Silvestro seems unlikely due to her FIA Formula E clash on qualifying weekend.

Ryan Briscoe or Davison are less likely to return this year given their full-time sports car commitments, although either would be a very good addition to a team.