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Run on confirmations kicks IndyCar 2017 silly season into overdrive

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There hasn’t even been one month since the checkered flag flew at Sonoma Raceway to mark the end of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, but in the few weeks that have followed, the dominos have officially started falling for 2017.

In order, it’s gone:

So that leaves this as the confirmed scenario for 2017:

  • Team Penske (4, Chevrolet): 1-Simon Pagenaud, 2-Josef Newgarden, 3-Helio Castroneves, 12-Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (3 of 4, Honda): 9-Scott Dixon, 10-Tony Kanaan, 83-Charlie Kimball
  • Andretti Autosport (3 of 4, Honda): 27-Marco Andretti, 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, 98-Alexander Rossi
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1, Honda): 15-Graham Rahal
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1 of 2, Honda): TBD-Sebastien Bourdais (No. 18 or 19)
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (1 of 2, Chevrolet): 20-Ed Carpenter (ovals)

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is yet to formally confirm James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin for another season, but with both drivers testing their Hondas at Gateway on Thursday, they’re safe bets. A number of drivers are in the running for a part-time third entry, if it materializes.

Several engineering moves have also happened. Bourdais will have Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson join him at Coyne from Andretti and KVSH Racing, respectively, and Michael Cannon will remain as lead engineer for the second car. Jeremy Milless, Newgarden’s longtime engineer, moves from Carpenter to the Andretti-Herta entry for Alexander Rossi as was first reported by Trackside Online and picked up by several others. RACER.com reported Eric Bretzman, Ben’s brother, will also join Andretti’s engineering department, and that sees that team continue to strengthen its arsenal. With Ganassi’s move to Honda, Honda gains the engineering strength assembled by CGR.

Question marks now follow for the remaining entities:

  • The Juan Pablo Montoya situation. Linked to at least three, possibly four teams, Montoya is hungry and determined to remain in a full-time IndyCar seat next year. He’s also motivated to prove his 2016 season of frustration was a fluke.
  • Carlos Munoz’s future in the balance. The Colombian was the highest finishing of four drivers for Andretti Autosport this year, 10th overall in points. The team wants him back, but he could be an attractive fit at one of the other vacancies out there.
  • Does Max Chilton come back? Chilton was in Indianapolis for the championship banquet. The fourth Ganassi seat would figure to be his if he wants it.
  • On Coyne’s second seat… Coyne wants the second car confirmed by the end of the month. The identity of Bourdais’ teammate will be an interesting one, because both Conor Daly and RC Enerson impressed this year. Other drivers could be in play here as well.
  • When/who switches manufacturers from Honda to Chevrolet? A.J. Foyt Enterprises is the leading candidate to switch the other way (Honda to Chevrolet) to account for the Ganassi-to-Honda move. Might another team need to switch as well? That seems doubtful.
  • What’s KVSH’s future look like? Fluid, certainly. It depends on how the co-ownership portions of the team, Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan move forward as a group, or perhaps individually. Losing Bourdais and Boisson will hurt, but the team is determined to move forward in some capacity. The rumors of a potential Carlin team partnership are just that for the moment.
  • Who gets the ECR seats? The full-season seat in what was Newgarden’s No. 21 Chevrolet is highly coveted. And there’s still the road and street course races to run in the No. 20 car.
  • What happens at Foyt? So much is up in the air here – drivers, manufacturers and confirming ABC Supply Co. to continue – it leaves Foyt with the most question marks among teams.
  • Ed Jones’ three-race deal will be at…? The proverbial TBD for the moment. The Dubai-based Brit has made his U.S. home in Miami and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion is still attempting to figure out where he’ll be, although he’s had meetings with several teams.
  • So many drivers, so few seats… Whether you’re Conor Daly, RC Enerson, Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves, JR Hildebrand, Matthew Brabham, Spencer Pigot, Stefan Wilson or any of the litany of veterans seeking another chance or hungry young lions waiting to make their debuts, there’s always the question of who lands where and who gets left on the sidelines.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”