Sponsor lineups coming into focus for IndyCar teams

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Just because not all of the 21 cars testing this weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Prix View test at Phoenix International Raceway are in finalized liveries doesn’t mean they don’t have most or all of their commercial considerations finalized.

Here’s what we’ve gathered so far about the sponsor lineups, by team:

TEAM PENSKE

  • Simon Pagenaud’s No. 1 Chevrolet will have Menards for 10 races, with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in its 2017 guise and PPG and DeVilbiss to round out the rotation. Pagenaud’s No. 1 car has PPG colors this weekend.
  • Josef Newgarden’s No. 2 Chevrolet will continue in Verizon colors at St. Petersburg, with Verizon (perhaps via its hum by Verizon brand), PPG, DeVilbiss and possibly Hawk Performance on board.
  • Helio Castroneves’ No. 3 Chevrolet continues with Hitachi, Rev Group and Shell, this year with Shell rather than Pennzoil branding set to feature.
  • Will Power’s No. 12 Chevrolet is in Verizon colors all year.
  • It’s not yet fully set which sponsors have which races, but there’s not expected to be upheaval within the Penske partner portfolio.

CHIP GANASSI RACING TEAMS

  • The revealing of the sponsor or sponsors set to adorn Scott Dixon’s No. 9 Honda remains the biggest question mark of the rest of the offseason. But expect Dixon’s all-white, sponsorless No. 9 car you see this test to be a relic of just this test.
  • Tony Kanaan’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda also has additional support, as previously announced, from 7-Eleven – although largely in an associate role.
  • Full season liveries for Max Chilton (Gallagher) and Charlie Kimball (Tresiba) continue, now on the Hondas.

ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT

  • DHL (Ryan Hunter-Reay), hhgregg (Marco Andretti) and Panasonic (Takuma Sato) adorn the respective Nos. 28, 27 and 26 Hondas, with Sato’s red, white and blue colors coming over from A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
  • The Andretti-Herta Autosport entry for Alexander Rossi has NAPA Auto Parts as announced for seven races (St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Indianapolis (both races) Road America, Watkins Glen and Sonoma). The team is working on the rest of the commercial program for this No. 98 Honda.

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING

  • Expect a similar portfolio of partners back for Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda as was in 2016. “Status quo” is a good way of putting it. United Rentals’ black, blue and chrome colors from AERO Advanced Paint Technology are on the No. 15 car this test.
  • Oriol Servia’s confirmed for the Indianapolis 500 and pair of Detroit races in the second car. The team might be able to add the INDYCAR Grand Prix to the schedule, but is unlikely to run any of the first four races.

ED CARPENTER RACING

  • Beyond Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, ECR is yet to reveal any additional primary partners for 2017. All three of its confirmed drivers – JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot – all took shots in Fuzzy’s Vodka firesuits (no, this pun was not intentional).

SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS

  • A slightly different livery adorns the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda for James Hinchcliffe this year but it retains the same gold and black colors as last year.
  • Mikhail Aleshin’s No. 7 SMP Racing Honda is all-black this test but is expected to join the red, white and blue car brigade once the SMP colors come on board.

A.J. FOYT ENTERPRISES

  • Two ABC Supply Co. Chevrolets for the young guns, Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz. Distinguishing the near identical liveries is easier said than done!

DALE COYNE RACING

  • As it stands, both Coyne cars will retain a white, red and blue livery with the Boy Scouts of America signage on Ed Jones’ No. 19 Honda. Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 18 car just says Dale Coyne Racing on it.

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”