Fernando Alonso could be the biggest name to come to IndyCar for 2019. Photo: IndyCar

IndyCar: 2018 season is over, here’s how 2019 is already shaping up

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SONOMA, California — The 2018 IndyCar season is now complete. So where do we go from here?

We start thinking about the 2019 season, of course.

After all, the new season is just under six months away.

Let’s take a quick team-by-team look at how next season’s driver lineups are looking:

Chip Ganassi Racing: 2018 champion Scott Dixon coming back. Ed Jones status uncertain.

Andretti Autosport: Zach Veach, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi all coming back. But keep an eye on whether two-time Formula One champ Fernando Alonso also races for Andretti Autosport in 2019, most likely in partnership with McLaren as a satellite team. But if there’s not enough room for Alonso (Honda has hedged on whether it will produce another motor for Alonso for next season) within the Andretti camp, don’t be surprised if Alonso winds up at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Team Penske: Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud all returning.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: James Hinchcliffe returning. … Robert Wickens’ status is uncertain due to the lengthy rehab he will undergo to recover from his violent August 19 crash at Pocono Raceway. … It’s unclear whether Carlos Munoz will continue to drive in place of Wickens if the latter is unable to race at least in the early part of the 2019 season.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato (officially re-signed prior to Sunday’s race at Sonoma) will both return. There is a possibility RLL may add a third car, but details have been sparse. One possibility, although it’s a longshot, is to bring onboard Fernando Alonso if Alonso doesn’t end up with Andretti Autosport in a partnership with McLaren.

Ed Carpenter Racing: Team owner Ed Carpenter and full-time driver Spencer Pigot will return. Non-oval driver Jordan King’s is expected to return.

Dale Coyne Racing: Pietro Fittipaldi likely to return. … It’s uncertain whether Santino Ferrucci will return for 2019, likely hinging on sponsorship. … Also uncertain is the status of Zachary Claman De Melo.

Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan: Sebastien Bourdais has agreed to a new two-year deal, team owner Dale Coyne said Saturday.

A.J. Foyt Enterprises: Both veteran Tony Kanaan and youngster Matheus Leist will return.

Harding Racing: This could be an interesting situation. Gabby Chaves is under contract for 2019. Team president Brian Barnhart is highly enamored with 2018 Indy Lights champ Pato O’Ward and runner-up Colton Herta. Harding fielded cars for both O’Ward and Herta in Sunday’s race as they made their respective IndyCar debuts. Barnhart also said Harding hopes to expand to a two-car operation next year. That could potentially mean a full-time ride for O’Ward, who has a $1 million Mazda Road to Indy scholarship in his pocket for winning the Lights’ championship. It’s rumored that Harding will be making a major announcement this week. But Herta is also a possibility to fill the other Harding seat. Again, what does that do to Chaves? It’s unlikely the team will field three cars. Plus, O’Ward and Herta are still signed with Andretti Autosport. There’s a possibility of a deal in the works where Harding could potentially “borrow” one or both drivers from the Andretti camp.

Carlin Racing: Both Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball are expected to return.

Meyer Shank Racing with SPM: Jack Harvey will return with a likely increase from six races this season to between eight and 10 in 2019.

Juncos Racing: Plans are unclear for drivers Rene Binder, Alfonso Celis Jr. and Kyle Kaiser.

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Indianapolis 500 weather forecast: Rain chances decreasing for start

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the green flag keeps approaching for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the chances of clear skies Sunday keep increasing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The chance of rain at the start of the race was down to about 30%, according to the wunderground.com site as of late Saturday night, and the forecast seemed good until late afternoon when the odds of precipitation rose to about 80%.

If the race starts on time at12:45 p.m. ET, that should be a long enough window to run the full 500 miles and certainly an official race (102 of 200 laps).

With Indiana on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone and a 9:02 p.m. sunset on race day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles said the green flag probably could be held as late as 6 p.m. if a worst-case scenario of bad weather hits.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch

“We ran the NASCAR race (in 2017) almost right up to sunset,” Boles said. “The challenge of getting closer to sunset is just getting people out when it’s still light. The race itself is more than 2 hours and 40 minutes so you have to back-time yourself.

“We’ll sit down with IndyCar over the next 24 hours and at least have that in the back of our mind. If there’s a window to get it done, our intent would be get it in Sunday, so we would want to go as late as we could.”

Boles said National Weather Service representatives are on site this weekend to help with forecasting. Regardless of if there still is a threat of rain, the track will start the race on time as long as the surface is dry.

“I can’t imagine we’d postpone the start because we think it might rain,” Boles said. “If it’s not raining, we’re running the race.

Boles said track officials are monitoring Sunday’s weather daily but won’t discuss any potential contingency plans until Saturday night. Regardless of whether it’s raining Sunday morning, some pre-race ceremonies likely will remain in place.

“It’s hard to speculate on what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s likely Sunday morning will be the first time that we have any definitive statement on what we think is going to happen. Instead of giving you information that we don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’d rather wait until that Sunday when we see the conditions, and we’ll let you know.

“Obviously, if it’s raining, then we’ll have to decide what the next steps are.”

Boles said Indiana weather traditionally is unpredictable, noting that qualifying was completed last Sunday despite predictions of a complete washout.

“Last year the prediction was it was going to rain on race day, we got up next morning, and it was perfect,” Boles said. “It just changes so rapidly around here.”

Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on time,. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.

During the previous 102 runnings of the Indy 500, there have been 12 impacted by rain: three complete postponements; two partial postponements and seven shortened races.

So what happens if it does rain? Some options:

Rain-shortened race

The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain.

The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over with Dario Franchitti in the lead when rain again hit at the 415-mile mark.

Partial postponement

If fewer than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans on holiday Monday because of Memorial Day, a partial postponement still might allow for a healthy audience at the track and watching on NBC.

The race has been partially postponed only twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.

Complete postponement

Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day with the start time dependent on the forecast.

The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday before rain again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and ’86 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.