In our last episode, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season ended with Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud winning the series championship at Sonoma Raceway. Since then, nearly six months have passed, and we are less than two weeks away from the opening race in St. Petersburg.
In this article, we will review the various changes that have occurred in the IndyCar since we last ran and identify some of the unknowns about the 2017 Indy 500.
All 16 race events from 2016 have re-upped for 2017. Good news! Also, IndyCar will return to old stomping grounds at Gateway Motorsport Park in late May. The races at Barber Motorsport Park and Long Beach have basically changed places, but both will still happen in April. Angie’s List has withdrawn its sponsorship of what will now be called the IndyCar Grand Prix in May at Indy, at least until another sponsor is found for the race.
The biggest news of the offseason was the much-rumored closing of KV Racing Technology due to the withdrawal of funding by team co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and James Sullivan. The team has sold its equipment to Juncos Racing, which is expanding its racing into IndyCar for 2017.
There was a changing of the guard with engine manufacturers. Chip Ganassi Racing left Chevrolet for Honda, followed by A.J. Foyt Racing announcing it was leaving Honda for Chevrolet. These changes will help the two IndyCar engine manufacturers with roughly the similar numeric parity.
The biggest team change may be the loss of Target’s sponsorship for Chip Ganassi Racing after 27 consecutive years of support.
Driver musical chairs is nothing new in many racing series. Here’s how Indy Car’ it played out for 2017:
- Team Penske hired Joseph Newgarden and demoted Juan Montoya, who will race the Indy 500 only.
- Dale Coyne Racing – Sebastian Bourdais in, Conor Daly out.
- Takuma Sato follows the Honda money from Foyt to Andretti. Carlos Munoz has no chair.
- R. Hildebrand takes Joey Newgarden’s place at Ed Carpenter Racing.
- Indy Lights champion Ed Jones takes his $1 million prize package to DCR, cashing out the various drivers Coyne ran in 2016.
- Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly will fill the two open slots at Foyt, replacing Sato and Jack Hawksworth, who appears to have no full-time ride for 2017.
So, to summarize, the following drivers who had full-time rides in 2016 but don’t have them for 2017 are Juan Montoya, Jack Hawksworth, and anyone who ran for Coyne other than at Indy.
The new driver entering the series in 2017 is Ed Jones, the Indy Lights champion. J.R. Hildebrand now has a full-time drive after not having one in 2016. We predict that Ed Jones will win Rookie of the Year.
Our 21 full-time drivers will be joined by 12 other drivers in a 33 car field for the 101st running of the Indy 500 in May. Here’s a team by team run down of that field as we go to press:
A.J. Foyt Racing: Munoz and Daly (2) No Indy only drivers.
Andretti Autosport: Marco Andretti, Hunter-Reay, Rossi, and Sato. (4) One unannounced driver for Indy. (+1)
Chip Ganassi Racing: Chilton, Dixon, Kanaan, and Kimball (4). No Indy only.
Dale Coyne Racing: Bourdais, Jones. (2) Indy only possible, no announced driver(s)
Dreyer &Reinbold: No full-time drivers. Sage Karam announced for Indy only. (+1)
Ed Carpenter Racing: Carpenter & Pigot share 1 car, Hildebrand (2). No Indy only.
Juncos Racing: No full-time drivers. 1 or 2 unannounced driver(s) for Indy. (+2)
Rahal Letterman Racing: Rahal (1). Servia (+1) announced for Indy.
Schmidt/Peterson Racing: Aleshin, Hinchcliffe(2). No Indy only announced.
Team Penske: Castroneves, Newgarden, Pagenaud, Power (2). Montoya announced for Indy only (+1).
So this leaves up to six of the necessary 12 cars expected or announced, with Karam and Montoya as the only Indy 500 drivers announced. This leaves room for six or more cars to enter and 10 drivers. Should be interesting.
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