CONFIRMED ENTRIES (14 - FT)
#2 Juan Pablo Montoya - Team Penske
Juan Pablo Montoya, the two-time Indianapolis 500 entry, overcame speculation that a FIAWEC switch may be in the cards, and will be back with Team Penske for the 2016 season. This will be the third year for Juan driving with the team.
#3 Helio Castroneves - Team Penske
Helio Castroneves will once again be back with the Team Penske outfit for the 2016 year. Castroneves, who has never won a championship in his sixteen years at Penske, will hope year seventeen will be the lucky season.
#5 James Hinchcliffe - Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
After being sidelined by injury for the majority of 2015, James Hinchcliffe will return to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2016. Hinch suffered an injury as a result of his practice crash at Indianapolis. He was replaced by Conor Daly and Ryan Briscoe for the remainder of the year, but Sam Schmidt assured everyone that once Hinch was ready to race, the seat was his. It's also worth noting that Arrow, the primary sponsor of the #5 car, signed a three year extension with the team that will see the electronics company sponsor the car through 2018. This will be Hinch's second year with the team and sixth in Indycar.
|Hinch will be back in Indycar in 2016 (Photo: Chris Owens / Indycar Media)|
#9 Scott Dixon - Chip Ganassi Racing
Three-time Indycar champion Scott Dixon will return to Chip Ganassi Racing in 2016 with the sponsorship from Target. This will be Dixon's fifteenth year for the team.
#10 Tony Kanaan - Chip Ganassi Racing
Despite speculation that Tony Kanaan's seat was in jeopardy, Kanaan and NTT Data will both be back for the #10 car under Chip Ganassi in 2016. This will be Kanaan's third year with the team.
#12 Will Power - Team Penske
Former Indycar champion Will Power will be back with Team Penske, racing for the squad since 2009.
#15 Graham Rahal - Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
After a breakout year, Graham Rahal looks poised to build on a solid foundation at his father's team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. They should be adding a car for several races this year in the hopes of expanding back to two cars in future years. We have seen in the past that two cars hasn't always made for the best formula for Graham. so hopefully the second car does not interfere with Graham's abilities. This will Graham's fourth full-time season with the team.
#20 Ed Carpenter - Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing
Ed Carpenter has retained the services of Ed Carpenter at Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing for the ovals in 2016. This is Ed's fifth season driving for Ed.
#22 Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske
Simon Pagenaud had a tough first year at Team Penske. Despite that, Pagenaud did enough to earn a ride back for the 2016 season.
#26 Carlos Munoz - Andretti Autosport
Carlos Munoz has just been confirmed back for another season with Andretti Autosport. This will make for his third full-time season under Michael Andretti. The very talented Colombian won his first race last year in Detroit, and more wins should be on the horizon in 2016.
#27 Marco Andretti - Andretti Autosport
Like Munoz, Marco Andretti has also been confirmed for another season with Andretti Autosport in 2016. Many think Marco is due for a Rahal-like breakout in 2016, but with only two wins in his ten years with the team, it's hard to determine if a great season is in the cards for Andretti.
|Andretti in for a breakout year in 2016? (Photo: John Cote / Indycar Media)|
#28 Ryan Hunter-Reay - Andretti Autosport
Ryan Hunter-Reay will be back for another year with Andretti Autosport and DHL. RHR joined the team in 2010 and it has blossomed into one of the best driver-team combinations in racing. Despite a sluggish first-half of last year, RHR finished strong.
#67 Josef Newgarden - Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing
The most sought after free agent of the Indycar offseason stayed put. Josef Newgarden, who broke out in his fourth season capturing two wins and constantly being in contention for a win, decided it was in his best interest to stay with the team that has groomed him. In another contract year, look for Newgarden to prove his worth so he can catapult himself into a top ride at Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing.
#83 Charlie Kimball - Chip Ganassi Racing
Charlie Kimball will be back for a sixth year with Chip Ganassi Racing. In the six years, Kimball has captured one win. Many are trying to determine if Charlie will ever become a serious championship contender. Hard to tell if that will be next year. Also hard to tell if Ganassi will hard ball him into leaving the team.
#88 Bryan Clauson - Jonathan Byrd's Racing
USAC ace and Indy 500 starter Bryan Clauson will return for a second season to race for Jonathan Byrd's Racing in May. Clauson struggled mightily last year, barely making the field and crashing in the race.
#TBA Spencer Pigot - Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Firestone Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot has secured a deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the opening round of the season at St. Petersburg and both races at Indianapolis in May. Pigot has landed himself in a good situation. Hopefully he can be a positive influence to an RLL team that is on the rise.
TEAMS/ENTRIES EXPECTED TO RETURN
AJ Foyt Enterprises #14 and #41
Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth are expected to return back with AJ Foyt Enterprises, but no official announcement has been made. Also, Alex Tagliani made a one-off with the team in Indianapolis, so the team could field three entries for Indianapolis.
Andretti Autosport #25
The Andretti Autosport entry that looked to be Justin Wilson's for 2016 and beyond is now in question altogether. Simona de Silvestro and Oriol Servia also occupied the #25 seat in 2015. A name that has been mentioned with the seat is former Pro Mazda champion in Matthew Brabham. Brabham tested for the team a couple times last year and has a history with the Andretti team, so if the money came together, he would be a good fit for the team. Overall, this entry will likely be one-offs.
Bryan Herta Autosport #98
Gabby Chaves is fully expected to return to Bryan Herta Autosport in 2016 after a strong (albeit conservative) rookie campaign.
|Gabby Chaves had a memorable year, including the hero that he didn't deserve |
but the one he needed at NOLA (Photo credit not given)
Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing #6 and #20
Ed Carpenter is confirmed to continue the oval duties, but Luca Filippi has not been confirmed yet. Filippi was well-received by his team in 2015, and there are no indications that he won't be back in 2016. JR Hildebrand also ran in May with the team. Look for Hildebrand to be back for 2016 with the team.
Chip Ganassi Racing #8
Sage Karam had some standout performances in his rookie season with Chip Ganassi Racing. Despite this, Ganassi and Karam just announced that they have parted ways. It's an unfortunate ending to a lineup that could have produced great things if both sides could have clicked. This entry doesn't look like it will be full-time next season, but we may see a one-off or two from some drivers. Sebastian Saavedra drove a couple races for the team last year with AFS Racing backing.
Dale Coyne Racing #18 and #19
Tristan Vautier, who came in at Indianapolis for Dale Coyne Racing and for the remainder of the season and had some solid performances, was chosen by the team to test at Road America. All indications are that Vautier will have some roll with the team next year, either full-time or a limited schedule. Other drivers like Rodolfo Gonzalez, Pippa Mann, and Rocky Moran Jr. will likely factor into DCR lineup at some point in 2016. But per DCR protocol, we won't know until late February.
|Carlos Huertas behind the wheel of a Dale Coyne machine. Huertas has likely seen his last |
days in Indycar (Photo: Mike Young / Indycar Media)
Dreyer and Reinbold Racing #TBA
Dreyer and Reinbold Racing fielded a one-off entry at Indianapolis with Townsend Bell. Bell, who journys from team-to-team every May at Indianapolis, could return with the team if they choose to race, but nothing has materialized yet. DRR, a former full-time team, scaled back their operations after 2013. There hope is to get back to full-time some day, but it's tough to see if 2016 will be that year.
KV Racing Technology #11 and #TBA
KV Racing is definitely looking forward to retaining the services of Indycar veteran and championship contender Sebastien Bourdais, who had a fantastic 2015 season. However, their second entry driven by rookie Stefano Coletti was a complete and utter bust. The entry did not qualify for the Leader's Circle money (which helps teams field an entry for the whole season), so the second entry, if there is one, will in all likelihood need financial backing from a new sponsor or from a driver's purse.
Lazier Partners Racing #91
Lazier Partners Racing and Buddy Lazier failed to qualify for the 2015 Indianapolis 500, bringing into question whether the team would be back in 2016. Despite this, Buddy assured people that they would be attempting to qualify again next year. At this point, the biggest question isn't if they'll be there. The biggest question is who will be driving. Though, to Buddy's defense, a short engine lease program does not help the team's chances of making the field every year.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports #TBA and #TBA
SPM got to rotate in several drivers last year, and that gives them options moving forward. James Jakes, Mikhail Aleshin, Ryan Briscoe, and Conor Daly. Mikhail Aleshin seems the obvious choice given his talent and financial backing from SMP Bank. If the Russian bank can continue to fund Aleshin, the seat could be taken. The team will also likely field a third entry for Indianapolis again. Last year it was Daly, who knows who it will be next year.
|Daly drove the third entry for Schmidt in 2015 at Indianapolis (Photo: Walter Kuhn / Indycar Media)|
POSSIBLE NEW TEAMS FOR 2016 AND BEYOND
The giant of feeder series team, Carlin Racing, expanded to America in 2015 in the form of two entries in Firestone Indy Lights. The team has their eyes set on Indycar, but it does not look like the team is ready to make that jump for 2016.
The all-female led Grace Autosport had their eyes squarely on fielding an entry for the 2016 Indianapolis 500 with Katherine Legge. The team has some things to work out, like partnering with a team for the month, but of the five teams listed here, this is one that I'm most confident we will see this year.
Juncos Racing, a long-time Mazda Road to Indy feeder team, is building a new shop and has their eyes on Indycar for the future. This likely won't happen next year, but a potential one-off in 2016 has not been ruled out.
|Juncos has had a strong presence in MRTI for years now. Pictured |
here is Connor De Phillippi (Photo: Indycar Media)
Straight out of left field, Marotti Racing announced they are planning to field a team for the 2016 Indianapolis 500. Will Marotti says he's been wanting to field a team for the Indianapolis 500 all of his life, and the timing is right. He's looking to partner with an existing entrant in order to get a leg up. Right now, he says he's 80% there. As far as a driver for the team goes, it's too early to tell.
The GP2 standout team Racing Engineering has declared that they want to expand their operations to America with an eye on Indycar. Though the team concedes that 2016 isn't likely at all, but keep an eye on this team for the future.
DRIVERS TO WATCH DURING SILLY SEASON
Here's drivers who haven't been signed yet (officially) that we should keep an eye on for the rest of Silly Season:
- Alex Tagliani
- Alexander Rossi
- Buddy Lazier
- Conor Daly
- Gabby Chaves
- Jack Harvey
- Jack Hawksworth
- James Davison
- James Jakes
- JR Hildebrand
- Katherine Legge
- Kevin Magnussen
- Luca Filippi
- Matthew Brabham
- Mikhail Aleshin
- Nelson Piquet Jr.
- Oriol Servia
- Pippa Mann
- Rocky Moran Jr.
- Rodolfo Gonzalez
- Ryan Briscoe
- Ryan Phinny
- Sage Karam
- Sebastian Saavedra
- Sebastien Bourdais
- Simona de Silvestro
- Stefan Wilson
- Townsend Bell
- Tristan Vautier
PROJECTED FULL-TIME ENTRIES: 21-22
PROJECTED PART-TIME ENTRIES: 33-34
Thanks for reading!