Thursday, December 17, 2015

Driver-Team Update: December 2016

Here is the updated driver-team lineup for the 2016 Verizon Indycar Season. You can check out November's update here and see what has changed:

CONFIRMED ENTRIES (18 - 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 (Updated: November).


#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 (Updated: November).


#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 (Updated: November).


#7 Mikhail Aleshin - Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Much like James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin was sidelined for much of the 2015 Indycar season. Aleshin's demise was sponsor related, as sanctions put on by America against Russia meant that Aleshin could not transfer the necessary funding to race in Indycar. As sanctions began to recede, Aleshin got to race in the season finale at Sonoma. This indicated that he would be back in 2016, and sure enough on December 9th, he and the team announced that the Russian would be back for a second full-time season in Indycar (Updated: December).

The Russian Returns (Photo: 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 (Updated: November).


#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 (Updated: November).


#11 Sebastien Bourdais - KV Racing Technology
After a successful second season, Sebastien Bourdais and KV Racing Technology will be back together for a third season (Updated: December).


#12 Will Power - Team Penske
Former Indycar champion Will Power will be back with Team Penske, racing for the squad since 2009 (Updated: November).


#14 Takuma Sato - AJ Foyt Enterprises
AJ Foyt Enterprises and team principle Larry Foyt have retained the services of veteran driver Takuma Sato. Sato will return for a forth season with the team, with varied success. Sato has had some ups, including his first career win, and some downs, as he continues to be a backmarker in most races (Updated: December).


#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 (Updated: November).


#18 Conor Daly - Dale Coyne Racing
Finally, Conor Daly has himself a full-time ride in Indycar. After several years of looking for a job and waiting for the right chance, Conor, with the help of Dale Coyne Racing, Jonathan Byrd's Racing, and Honda has found himself in the hunt for the 2016 Indycar Championship and Rookie of the Year. Daly has been involved with Indycar in 2013 and 2015, but made only six starts in three years (Updated: December).


#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 (Updated: November).



#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 (Updated: November).


#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 (Updated: November).


#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 (Updated: November).


#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 (Updated: November).


#41 Jack Hawksworth - AJ Foyt Enterprises
Jack Hawksworth will return for a second full season with AJ Foyt Enterprises and his third Indycar season. The man from England will look to build on a pretty awful first season with the team that is switching bases from Texas to Indianapolis (Updated: December).


#61 Matthew Brabhan - PIRTEK Team Murray
Straight outta nowhere, former Pro Mazda champion Matthew Brabham, who has long been affiliated with Andretti Autosport, signed a deal with first-time team PIRTEK Team Murray to race both races in Indianapolis in May. The team is run jointly by Brett Murray and KV Racing Technology. This will be Matthew's debut in an Indycar, though he has tested in an Indycar several times (Updated: December).

Brabham driving for Andretti Autosport in Pro Mazda in 2013 (Photo: Indycar Media)


#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 (Updated: November).


#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 (Updated: November).


#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. The team has joined together with Dale Coyne Racing for the foreseeable future. (Updated: December).



#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 (Updated: November).



TEAMS/ENTRIES EXPECTED TO RETURN


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. With Matthew Brabham heading in a different direction, it remains to be seen if the funding for this seat will be found, and who will be driving it (Updated: December).

Has Simona's career in Indycar fizzled out again? (Photo: Indycar Media)

Bryan Herta Autosport #98 
Gabby Chaves is expected to return to Bryan Herta Autosport in 2016 after a strong (albeit conservative) rookie campaign. Don't expect an announcement until later in the offseason (Updated: December).


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. Carpenter did reveal to RACER this month that the #20 car isn't a sure thing on road courses this year, as funding still needs to be found. This isn't to say that it is likely it will be back, but it is not a sure thing. JR Hildebrand also ran in May with the team. Look for Hildebrand to be back for 2016 with the team (Updated: December).


Chip Ganassi Racing #8 
Sage Karam and Chip Ganassi announced in November that the two were parting ways. Despite this, it sounds like some headway is being made to field a fourth entry for 2016. The driver remains unclear. Some names are out there, but the only one currently worth speculating about is Sebastian Saavedra, who drove for Ganassi in 2015 (Updated: December).


Dale Coyne Racing #19 and #63
Who would have thunk that the most hotly contested seats heading into December would be the two Dale Coyne Racing seats? Dale Coyne. who has had a history of selling his cars to the highest bidder, signed Conor Daly to pilot the #18 car. This shocked many, meaning that the second driver in #19 car could be anyone. Tristan Vautier's affiliation with the team continues to be distant. Pippa Mann is "very likely" to make her fourth Indianapolis 500 start with DCR in May (Updated: December).

Daly in the Dale Coyne car in Long Beach (Photo: 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 (Updated: December).


KV Racing Technology #TBA
KV Racing has to take a serious look at their second car and determine if they want to go through the effort of finding the funding in order to get a driver in that seat. Stefano Coletti drove the #4 KV car last year and was utterly worthless, which probably added zero benefits to their primary #11 car. If they can't get, no car will be fielded. The team has reached out to Sage Karam and would love to see him drive, but it has to make sense for it to happen (Updated: December).



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 (Updated: November).


Schmidt Peterson Motorsports #TBA
Now that SPM has their two full-time cars sorted out, it remains to be seen if a third car will be fielded at Indianapolis. They will also need a new driver, since their third driver last year, Conor Daly, is slated for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 (Updated: December).



POSSIBLE NEW TEAMS FOR 2016 AND BEYOND


Carlin Racing 
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 (Updated: November).

Max Chilton, pictured here, drove for the newly created Carlin Indy Lights team. Chilton
continues to look around for a possible Indycar ride in 2016 (Photo: Autosport)

Grace Autosport 
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 (Updated: November).


Juncos Racing
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 (Updated: November).


Marotti Racing 
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 (Updated: November).


Racing Engineering 
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 (Updated: November).



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
  • Gabby Chaves
  • Francesco Dracone
  • Jack Harvey
  • James Davison
  • James Jakes
  • JR Hildebrand
  • Katherine Legge
  • Kevin Magnussen
  • Luca Filippi
  • Nelson Piquet Jr.
  • Oriol Servia
  • Pippa Mann
  • Rocky Moran Jr.
  • Rodolfo Gonzalez
  • Ryan Briscoe
  • Ryan Phinny
  • Sage Karam
  • Sebastian Saavedra
  • Simona de Silvestro
  • Stefan Wilson
  • Townsend Bell
  • Tristan Vautier

PROJECTED FULL-TIME ENTRIES: 20-23

PROJECTED PART-TIME ENTRIES: 34-36


Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey

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