Thursday, October 20, 2016

Silly Season Update - October

The 2016 Silly Season has been a wild one, and there's a lot left to go! Here's an updated team and driver update for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Season:


AJ Foyt Enterprises

UNCONFIRMED

#14 AJ Foyt Enterprises

With AJ Foyt Enterprises likely to switch to Chevrolet engines, the money that Honda was sending Takuma Sato is gone, meaning Sato is likely gone to despite a good relationship with the Foyts. That leaves the door open to many possibilities, especially for some young Americans.

Top three candidates:
1) Carlos Munoz
2) Takuma Sato
3) Juan Pablo Montoya


#41 AJ Foyt Enterprises

Jack Hawksworth is having tea somewhere pondering his future as a sports car driver. Meanwhile, his seat has been vacated. Here are three different drivers from above that could be in the seat:

Top three candidates:
1) Sage Karam 
2) Conor Daly
3) Santi Urrutia

Sonoma Raceway - Day 1
There's one seat we know is open for sure... (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America)

Andretti Autosport

CONFIRMED

#27 Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti has driven for his dad every season since 2006. We do know that hhgregg is jumping onboard in a greater sponsorship role in 2017, but after a dismal 2016, staff changes could help his 2016 season.


#28 Ryan Hunter-Reay

Former Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has signed a contract extension with Andretti Autosport until the end of the 2020 season. DHL will return as the sponsor for those seasons.


#98 Alexander Rossi

Despite rumors of Marco Andretti shifting over to the Bryan Herta coordinated effort with Andretti Autosport, the 100th Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi will return to the #98 car for 2017 and beyond. There were rumors of him maybe moving to Team Penske or back to Formula 1, but Rossi decided to stay in IndyCar.


UNCONFIRMED

#26 Andretti Autosport

Carlos Munoz is growing frustrated at Andretti Autosport about the amount of sponsor dollars he brings to the team vs. the benefit for the money he brings. He is also frustrated at the lack of salary he earns based on his results. Teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti get paid handsomely, while Munoz gets table scraps. If he has a chance to move elsewhere, he will. I am sure something could work out, but IF he moves on, I listed my top-three candidates for that ride.

Top three candidates:
1) Takuma Sato
2) Juan Pablo Montoya
3) Robin Frijns



Chip Ganassi Racing

CONFIRMED

#9 Scott Dixon

Biggest news for Chip Ganassi Racing this offseason was switching from Chevrolet to Honda. Despite having the bullseye off of his back, Scott Dixon will be back with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2017. The sponsorship is said to be announced soon, so watch out for that.


#10 Tony Kanaan

The rumor mill was surrounding Tony Kanaan pretty hard heading into the silly season. Despite all the rumors, Kanaan will return to Ganassi for a fourth season with NTT Data as the primary sponsor.

Sonoma Raceway - Day 2
Tony Kanaan will be back in the blue NTT Data colors in 2017 (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America)

#83 Charlie Kimball

Despite a bumpy 2017 season, Charlie Kimball will likely be back with the backing of his diabetic pharmaceutical sponsorship.


UNCONFIRMED

#8 Chip Ganassi Racing

This is an entry that will either happen because of one driver or likely fold. Max Chilton brought huge sponsorship dollars from Arthur J. Gallagher, a brokerage insurance firm. There have been ties that Max may head off to Trevor Carlin's rumored IndyCar team, but sources say that Max should be returning to Ganassi for a second season. If Max doesn't return, it's tough to see this entry happening without sponsorship backing that a driver would bring.

Top three candidates:
1) Max Chilton
2) Juan Pablo Montoya
3) Whoever brings money... Haha



Dale Coyne Racing 

CONFIRMED

#18 Sebastien Bourdais

In a shocking twist of historical proportions, Dale Coyne was rumored to have signed Sebastien Bourdais before the end of the season. Before the first test of the offseason, Dale confirmed the rumors, which is five months before schedule. Bourdais reunites with the team that brought him back into IndyCar after his failed stint in Formula 1. Coyne has also been hard at work beefing up the engineering staff.


UNCONFIRMED

#19 Dale Coyne Racing

You're guess is as good as mine as to who will drive in the second Dale Coyne car. RC Enerson seems like the obvious candidate, but it could be a score of other drivers.

Top three candidates:
1) RC Enerson
2) Conor Daly
3) Santi Urrutia



Ed Carpenter Racing

CONFIRMED

#20 Ed Carpenter (Ovals)

Ed Carpenter has retained the services for Ed Carpenter at Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2017 oval schedule. He'll look to bounce back after a tough 2016 season.


UNCONFIRMED

#20 Ed Carpenter Racing (Road Courses)

Despite not entering in the first part of the season, the road course car pioneered by Mike Conway saw action after the Month of May. Spencer Pigot took the seat and performed quite well. He definitely has a future in the series.

Top three candidates:
1) Spencer Pigot
2) Conor Daly
3) Sage Karam


#21 Ed Carpenter Racing

With superstar Josef Newgarden off to greener pastures, Ed Carpenter is left with some options to fill the seat. The obvious candidate is JR Hildebrand, who has been testing with the team the last couple of seasons and running the races in May, with some good success. Other drivers on the radar should be Spencer Pigot, Carlos Munoz, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Sage Karam.

Top three candidates:
1) JR Hildebrand
2) Juan Pablo Montoya
3) Carlos Munoz


Sonoma Raceway - Day 1
Josef Newgarden has left ECR for Team Penske (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America)

KV Racing

UNCONFIRMED

#11 KV Racing

Who knows, KV Racing may not even be called KV Racing next season. Jimmy Vasser, the 'V' in KV is intent on running the team next year, while the 'K', Kevin Kalkhoven, who owns Cosworth, is trying to scale back his financial and time commitment in IndyCar. Without the money necessary, Vasser may have to look elsewhere either for sponsors or a new partner. Insert Trevor Carlin, the feeder series giant of Europe who joined Indy Lights last year with the plan to move up to IndyCar in a couple of seasons. Merging with a current team would make a lot more sense for him than starting from scratch. While nothing is official yet, I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen.

Top three candidates:
1) Matthew Brabham
2) Pastor Maldonado
3) Oriol Servia


UNCONFIRMED

#TBA KV Racing

If Carlin does join forces with Vasser, look for Indy Lights champion Ed Jones to join forces with his boss for the last two season in IndyCar for at least three races.

Top three candidates:
1) Ed Jones
2) Matthew Brabham
3) Pastor Maldonado



Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

CONFIRMED

#15 Graham Rahal

Back for another season is the consistenly best Honda entry (in the aero-kit era at least) of Graham Rahal. Anyone else notice how many sponsors they pack on that car? It is wonderful.


UNCONFIRMED

#16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

The second RLL car made three races last year with Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot and his scholarship money paying the way. While the team has thrived under a one car banner, two cars is the way to go. It's all about staffing that second car correctly to compliment Graham's car. Who races in it, even if it is a part-time ride? Graham wants a veteran, but if Jones doesn't land with Carlin, I could see the same thing that the team did with Pigot last year.

Top three candidates:
1) Oriol Servia
2) Ed Jones
3) Juan Pablo Montoya



Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

CONFIRMED

#5 James Hinchcliffe

Should I get my dancing puns out of the way now or later? Anyways, James Hinchcliffe will rumba his way into the 2017 in his third year with SPM Racing. He had a very good 2016 season, as he two-stepped to many good results. Some of his finishes made me want to tango, while other misfortunes made me want to join cheerleading.


#7 Mikhail Aleshin

RACER confirmed that everyone at SPM is happy with Mikhail Aleshin and SMP Bank, and that there is no reason to not expect Aleshin back next season.



Team Penske

CONFIRMED

#1 Simon Pagenaud

The champ is here! Simon Pagenaud enters year three of his tenure at Team Penske, and he comes back as the champion. Look for Pagenaud to be the bar that everyone aims for next year, as he will run the #1 car next year per the champions reward,


#2 Josef Newgarden

The biggest offseason move in a long-time is Josef Newgarden. The former Indy Lights champion has the charisma, tenacity, and skill set to drive at Team Penske. Josef could be an instant championship contender next season.


#3 Helio Castroneves

Not surprisngly, Helio Castroneves will return to Team Penske for another season. He has raced full-time with the team every season since 2000. Despite that, he still has not won a championship. Will 2017 be the year?

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
#12 Will Power leads Helio Castroneves at Sonoma (Photo: Lachian Cunnignham / Getty Images North America)

#12 Will Power

Simon Pagenaud may have won the championship in 2016, but Will Power may have tied him for best driver. After missing the first race and struggling prior to June, Power was absolutely incredible in the last two-thirds of the season. He will be back with Team Penske, the team he has driven for since 2009.


Let me know what drivers you want to see where!

-Matthew Hickey

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