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

Fernando Alonso could be the biggest name to come to IndyCar for 2019. Photo: IndyCar
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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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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III