Daly in 2013. Photo: Getty Images

Reports: Daly, Jones set for Foyt, Coyne 2017 confirmations

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Before the U.S. Presidential Election went down on Tuesday night, the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series silly season burst open again in the hours before it.

First up was A.J. Foyt Enterprises, where Conor Daly had always been in the frame for one of the two seats but without hedging his bets of being too confident, looks set to secure the second seat there (via Motorsport.com, later via RACER.com).

Daly made his IndyCar debut with Foyt in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 before driving a partial season with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Dale Coyne Racing in 2015, and a full season with Coyne in 2016.

Foyt has not yet confirmed its impending switch from Honda to Chevrolet engines and aero kits – nor either driver – but it would be set for a major upheaval of change provided the i’s get dotted and t’s get crossed once contracts are signed and things become official.

In a sentence, Foyt would go from Honda/Takuma Sato/Jack Hawksworth to Chevrolet/likely Carlos Munoz/Conor Daly as a package, and that’s before you get into engineering and other team personnel there. Interesting times ahead.

Coyne, meanwhile, said during an October conference call after Sebastien Bourdais’ confirmation that he was hoping to have both his seats finalized by November.

It doesn’t appear he was kidding.

“Yes. We announced last year earlier than ever in the 18 car,” Coyne said on October 12. “We’re working very close to some programs with all the usual suspects to get something done here by the end of this month so we’ll know both of our drivers going into November.

“We have more tests planned. I should add that this is a two-year program with Sebastien. This is not just a one-year program. It’s two years and possibly more. So we’re excited about that. Especially next year with the equalizer coming in 2018 with an aero kit the same for everyone, I think that will really help us.

“But not sure which car number Sebastien will be in yet. We’re still working on lots of sponsorship programs. Depending on how that comes out, that will determine whether it’s the 18 or the 19. We got a lot of things going and are very excited to be in this position this early.”

That second driver looks set to be Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Ed Jones, which isn’t the Indy Lights graduate many folks pegged for the seat alongside Bourdais. Following a string of three impressive end-of-year outings, RC Enerson had raised his stock and figured to get a good look in a full-season role there.

However, RACER.com has now pegged Jones in the second car. The Dubai-based Brit admitted to NBC Sports in the days after securing his Indy Lights title he’d had conversations with multiple teams and hoped to get a deal done within the month.

The question was always whether he’d be able to stretch his confirmed three races via winning the $1 million Mazda advancement scholarship into a full-season opportunity with the necessary budget to do so.

Neither seat has yet been confirmed by the respective teams, as noted, but these two fillings would reduce the already dwindling number of available slots left in the 2017 field.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).