LEXINGTON, OH – I’m sure you’re reading the same things we’re all hearing and reporting on the upcoming testing schedule in the NTT IndyCar Series. We’re to the point of the year where we get reports of seeing about 100 drivers (sarcasm) with funding that are “close” to an Indy Car seat for next season.
It happens annually. Most don’t ever come to fruition.
If you go off of the reports that you’ll see between now and January, the entry list for 2020 will be at 76. See, drivers and their managers like to put out reports that they are close to a deal and have some funding only so other teams can see. It’s great PR for them but for fans, it can be confusing. You have to read between the lines through these reports and really look deeper on who will be racing where next season.
Plus, you’ll have these upcoming test dates and who’s testing with whom that drives silly season up as well. Despite that, don’t put a ton of stock in those. Here’s why.
Sage Karam during Friday night practice for the INDYCAR Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway.
The teams are able to test at certain times between now and the end of the year with non full season drivers. They get additional test days if they test them out. Also, you can get additional time in using Indy Lights drivers as well.
Here’s what the 2019 rulebook says on that.
“Non-Full-Season Rookie, Driver Evaluations, Injured and/or Returning Drivers Tests An Entrant has additional Test Day(s) as approved by INDYCAR on a case-by-case basis.
“Test Day(s) may not take place at a Race Location prior to the current season’s scheduled INDYCAR Race event at that location.
“Exemptions may be allowed with INDYCAR approval.”
Indy Lights Series Driver Tests:
“Full-Season Entrants in the NTT IndyCar Series have an additional one (1) Test Day for the purpose of Testing a Current Indy
“Lights Series Driver(s) in a Car. Participating Current Indy Lights Driver(s) must receive prior INDYCAR approval.
“If a Team participates with two (2) or fewer Full-Season Entrant(s) in the Indy Lights Series, the Team may use a maximum of two (2) Cars during the Test.
“If a Team participates with three (3) or more Full-Season Entrant(s) in the Indy Lights Series, the number of Cars testing may not exceed the number of the Teams Full-Season Indy Lights Series Entrants. Entrants may use multiple Current Indy Lights Series Drivers.”
See now why the teams decide to use Lights drivers or ones that may have a future Indy Car interest and not a full time entrant that drives for the now? It’s a smart tactic that the teams have figured out to get a young driver seat time for evaluation as well as real time data that they can use instantly.
It’s a win-win.
But, don’t necessarily think that these test drivers are going to take one of these seats. Nothing against Oliver Askew, but he’s likely not driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2020. Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist will more than likely be back.
Team Penske will have all three of their current drivers back in 2020 as well as making a run at Alexander Rossi. If they use a test date like this for their disposal, and they likely will, that driver isn’t going to likely race for them next season.
Andretti Autosport has three of their four drivers under contract for 2020. Rossi is the exception. If he doesn’t return, Conor Daly and Colton Herta are the obvious replacements.
Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has James Hinchcliffe coming back and there’s interest on both sides for Marcus Ericsson to return for a second season.
Dale Coyne Racing has Sebastien Bourdais under contract and I can’t see them letting Santino Ferrucci getting away.
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing should have Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato back.
The real only potential open seats would be at Ed Carpenter Racing, Carlin, Juncos and Harding (should Herta leave).
So, these tests really aren’t silly season indicative and all these rumors with drivers having funding and close to deal are just that – one sided rumors.
These test days are good for drivers to turn heads ie – Rosenqvist with Ganassi a few years ago, but it won’t automatically put the test drivers as a favorite role to land a seat in that ride for next year.