INDIANAPOLIS – With Ed Carpenter Racing’s announcement on Wednesday that Rinus VeeKay will drive the full time seat in the No. 21 Chevrolet entry, we’re down to just a few rides left for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season.
Over the last 6 weeks or so, most of the dominotes have fallen. Chip Ganassi Racing will expand to a third car with Marcus Ericsson. Andretti Autosport has brought Harding Steinbrenner Racing under their banner with Colton Herta. They’ve also aligned with Meyer Shank Racing and driver Jack Harvey. Arrow McLaren SP has signed Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward for their two full time seats. Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing has renewed Takuma Sato’s contract to keep him as Graham Rahal’s teammate.
So, what’s left?
Right now, we know there’s 24 cars that will likely be full time with a chance for a couple more too.
The rides that we know are available are part-time seats with ECR and Carlin, the second seat at Dale Coyne Racing, a full time seat with Carlin and two rides at Foyt.
Some of those rides though have handshake deals in place, so while on the surface it seems like there’s four full time seats available and two part-time ones, those rides have drivers virtually assigned to them.
Lets start with DCR who by all accounts looks like Santino Ferrucci will be back as a teammate with Sebastien Bourdais. We know he’s been courted elsewhere, but with so few seats left, his best option is to remain put.
In terms of Foyt, there’s a handshake deal in place for Tony Kanaan to come back for 2020 with as of now seems like his final year. The new word on the street is that Kanaan will be part time though with Charlie Kimball sharing the seat of the No. 14 Chevrolet in races that Kanaan doesn’t contest in. Super Tex has made it clear that while ABC Supply will only be on the 14 for the Indy 500 only, his wishes are to remain a two-car team and that he’s looking for drivers with funding as a result. Does Kanaan end up full time and Kimball split the other seat with another driver or do these two share the 14 and they get a full time driver with funding for the No. 4 Chevrolet?
For Carlin, word on the street on their end is that their rides are available for $4-$5 million each. Max Chilton is back in a part time role on road/street courses, so they have a full time seat and part time seat for the taking. Conor Daly is definitely in play but he can’t use his US Air Force money here. Daly, has enough money for the full time seat if he could bring on Air Force. But, Daly has said in the past that he has an option on the table to run all ovals for Carlin. Does he take it? I know he wants a full time seat and maybe he can run all ovals for Carlin and all road/street courses for Carpenter. More on this later.
Matheus Leist or Ed Jones make solid candidates to drive for Carlin too as both are former Indy Lights drivers with them. If Daly doesn’t take the oval gig, both make sense for that seat. They could also make sense for the full time seat as well. So does Sage Karam who impressed the team in a limited role last year with them. Also, there could be an option on the table for Kimball to return if nothing pans out with Foyt.
ECR has pretty well made it clear that neither Ed Jones nor Spencer Pigot will be back. VeeKay is signed on for their full time seat. Carpenter, says he will be back on all ovals and hopes to have a deal done soon for his shared ride on all road/street coures. Nico Hulkenberg was rumored but Carpenter says that won’t happen. Daly, makes the most sense. He can bring Air Force over, get a ride for all road/street courses and run all ovals with the exception of the Indy 500 with Carlin. See, Air Force wants to be in the ‘500 and Daly says he has an offer from Andretti Autosport to come back for next May. He was assured Michael would run a seventh car for him. But, with ECR who’s been very fast at Indy lately, maybe he runs all road/street courses as well as the Indy 500 in their third seat and Carlin for the rest and pieces a full time gig together like that.
In turn, that sets up James Hinchcliffe to run that Andretti seat as word is that the two have spoke. We know that Andretti can’t run six full time cars plus a seventh alliance. If Daly gets the ECR nod, then that opens Andretti to run Hinch at Indy.
Other than that, there’s nothing full time left. RLL and Ganassi have expressed interest to run an additional car for Hinchcliffe, but they need at least $6 million to make this happen. I’ve been told the asking price for a quality full time seat is upwards of $6 to $8 million in fact. Hinchcliffe, doesn’t have that kind of money.
In terms of AJ Foyt Racing, obviously both drivers are now free agents but Tony Kanaan appears to be coming back for 2020. His teammate though is up in the air as ABC Supply is pulling out. They’ll need someone who brings money.
RLL is going to run a third car at Indy and desperately wants Hinch. Maybe that’s his option there and possibly a few other races. Andretti could be an option for Hinchcliffe for Indy only.
Arrow McLaren SP said that they will run a third car at Indy and that Fernando Alonso is high on that list. Alonso, also has an offer from Andretti too. If Daly or Hinchcliffe aren’t in that car, then Alonso could be. McLaren/SP needs a veteran in that third car for Indy, so if Daly or Alonso are out, Oriol Servia or someone of that magnitude should be mentioned. Even Spencer Pigot could make sense.
Penske will likely run a fourth car at Indy for Helio Castroneves again. DragonSpeed is planning to run at least 10 races with Ben Hanley, one of which being the Indy 500.
The rest is pretty much done.
Team Penske (3) – Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud. No plans to expand to a fourth full time car.
McLaren/Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2) – The team announced that the last two Indy Lights champions in Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward will drive the two cars in 2020. No expansion to a full time third car team will happen.
AJ Foyt Racing (2) – Currently both cars are open but Tony Kanaan has a handshake deal to return. The other car is available. Charlie Kimball is now in the picture for a part-time role with Kanaan in the No. 14.
Ed Carpenter Racing (2) – VeeKay has signed on to be the full time driver. Carpenter is back in the part-time ovals only role. The road/street course seat is available and Conor Daly makes the most senses for it. We know Nico Hulkenberg isn’t in contention for it anymore.
Carlin (2) – The team will be back with two cars, but other than Max Chilton racing on road/street courses, the ovals for that seat are open. The other ride is a full time entry for all races and is open too.
DragonSpeed (1) – The team wants Ben Hanley back and is eyeing as much as 10 races for 2020.
Juncos (1-2) – They have multiple chassis still but no word yet on if they use them at more races than Indy in 2020. Spencer Pigot has to be the top play with his past success with Juncos and he can run IMSA for them too. I’d like to see Pigot and Kyle Kaiser in a two-car Juncos effort with sports car opportunities for both when they’re not in an Indy Car.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (1-2) – They’ve showed up to Indy the last two years now with two cars for Sage Karam and JR Hildebrand. I think they at least do so again for 2020. The goal though has always been more races. Can they make it happen next year?
Andretti Autosport (5) – All four current drivers will be back as will Colton Herta. They’re not running six full time cars but did land an alliance with Michael Shank Racing.
Michael Shank Racing (1) – They had to stay in the Honda family, so when Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports bailed to Chevy, it left MSR searching. They landed with Andretti and will have Jack Harvey as their driver.
Chip Ganassi Racing (3-4) – Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson are set. The only way they likely now run a fourth car is in an alliance or if Hinchcliffe can make it happen.
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (2-3) – Same exact prospects as above. They want a third car but teaming with an alliance is their best option. Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato will be back too.
Dale Coyne Racing (2) – Sebastien Bourdais is back but what about Santino Ferrucci. His options are now limited. He should return.
Key Free Agents
James Hinchcliffe – It’s surprising the news came this late of him being out at McLaren/SPM but not surprising given the lame duck status with the team past this season. Hinchcliffe is a popular driver that’s a proven winner and is fast. He has Honda’s backing, but is it enough to help him land somewhere. The problem is, RLL, Ganassi or DCR are his only options if he wants to run full time but all require at the very minimum $4 million (DCR) and $6 to $8 million for RLL or Ganassi.
Conor Daly – He’s got to be near the top of everyone’s list now right? The super sub has proven he’s earned a full time seat. He’ll be mentioned for Carlin, Foyt and ECR but if RLL expands to a third car or Ferrucci leaves DCR, those are good destinations for him too.
Santino Ferrucci – Depending on whom you talk to, some say Ferrucci holds the option for 2020 while other say DCR does. Right now, Ferrucci doesn’t have a ride for 2020 but that won’t last long. He should now be back with DCR.
Tony Kanaan – Only putting him on here because he’s technically not signed, but Foyt will be where he ends up for a third straight year.
Charlie Kimball – Carlin could be in play again but new rumor is that Kimball could wind up at Foyt.
Spencer Pigot – ECR was high on him but they need money and Pigot doesn’t have any to bring. He’s looking at IMSA options now. He’s a good young driver deserving of another shot but with guys like Hinchcliffe and Daly sitting there with some money available, Pigot falls down the pecking order.
Ed Jones – The kid has talent but he didn’t show enough of it with Ganassi in 2018 and after a ho-hum season with ECR in 2019, his options for 2020 may be limited. Carlin may be his best shot.
Matheus Leist – He had a rough go of it in his two years with Foyt but it’s not surprising either. I don’t see him going back there but Carlin is the most logical choice.
Sage Karam – He has the talent, he just needs the money. DCR or a part time gig at either Carlin or ECR would make the most sense for him.
Jordan King – He would like to race in Indy Car. The problem is, he doesn’t have a ton of funding. If he can find it, he will have a seat. ECR, RLL or DCR would be prime landing spots for him.
Carlos Munoz – He didn’t race in 2019 but he has talent and is always a threat at Indy.