INDIANAPOLIS — Two more rides are set to be off the table in the NTT INDYCAR Series silly season. Ryan Hunter-Reay will soon be confirmed as returning to his Andretti Autosport sport seat for 2021. The 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion was a free agent but he and AA have agreed to terms to keep him in his No. 28 Honda seat for another year.
On Monday, sources confirmed that Helio Castroneves will drive for Meyer Shank Racing in a part time program in 2021. Castroneves, will drive the No. 06 Honda starting in the second race of the season at Barber in which his six race deal also obviously includes the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
After a busy final week and week after the 2020 season in which Scott McLaughlin (Penske), Takuma Sato (RLL), Rinus VeeKay (ECR) Felix Rosenqvist (McLaren), Alex Palou (Ganassi) and Marcus Ericsson (Ganassi) confirm rides, what’s left?
You have drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya, Spencer Pigot and James Hinchcliffe who are eyeing full time seats. You also have current drivers like Conor Daly, Marco Andretti, Santino Ferrucci, Oliver Askew and Charlie Kimball who are trying to remain full time too.
What about someone coming from overseas like Kevin Magnussen or Antonio Felix da Costa?
Right now, I still count six rides available for the taking. That’s 10 drivers there.
Andretti Autosport: No. 26 and No. 98 Honda’s
Dale Coyne Racing: No. 18 and No. 55 Honda’s
Ed Carpenter Racing: No. 20 (part-time)
AJ Foyt Racing: No. 4 Chevrolet
You have expansion potential too.
“I think we’d like to run a third car, but it really has to make sense,” Rahal said. “It really has to be someone who can contribute to the team. I’m not interested in running a third car just to say we’ve got a third car. We’ve kind of done that before. A lot of teams have done that. That second or third car doesn’t really contribute. It really becomes a drag on a team. We don’t want that. We work too hard to kind of create the situation that exists today.
“I think with our organization we still can be better, for sure. None of us in the team thinks we’re as good as we can be, so we’re going to continue to push, continue to try to bring good people in, build the foundation and the depth of the team from a mechanical standpoint, an engineering standpoint, you name it.
“First things first. Fortunately Graham’s sponsors are with us for several more years, so that’s a big plus for a team. As I say, I think Takuma wants to continue with us, we certainly want him to. That’s going to allow us to kind of see what’s out there. Again, it has to be contributory to the success of the team in the future. It can’t just be, as I say, running a car for the sake of running a car.”
Sato has won 2 Indy 500s in 4 years and back with RLL for a 4th consecutive season
Another expansion could be with Foyt too.
“Our goal is to grow,” Foyt said when announcing Sebastien Bourdais’ signing. “This is a big piece of that, a big part of that, to start that.”
Kimball was brought in for his set up help, he and Bourdais would make a great team for Foyt
So, who drives the second car? Is Charlie Kimball back? Is there two full time cars and third part time one?
“Not certain at the moment,” Foyt continued. “We’ll certainly be two cars. If the right opportunity came to grow to three, we would do it the right way, we would potentially look at that.
“We’re talking to all our current guys right now. It’s a bit open at the time. We’re just going to see where that shakes out. This was the first piece that we wanted to get in place, and now we’ll start working on the others.”
So, who ends up where?
All signs point to Ferrucci back with DCR. He told me as much recently.
“I’m pretty much set to be back,” Ferrucci told me on his contract status for 2021. “Obviously waiting on a couple more things and Dale. I want to be back. I want to be back with the same team, same crew, same engineering. I really think that we can do something big.”
His teammate will be up for grabs but DCR will bring in a paying driver. Who is it though?
Daly is waiting until next month to hear about US Air Force’s status. He said that’s his ticket into the series or not for 2021.
“I hope so,” Daly said to me. “I don’t know. I’ve still yet to progress to where I’m a driver without a sponsor. I’m still just me with the Air Force. I want to continue to make that relationship a successful one. I think this year is a really hard to judge anything because they couldn’t use their on track activations. I’m hoping we basically get a redo and say that didn’t work and get to try it again next year. A full go and everything is back to normal then we can really make it work. I think a lot of stuff we did together was really cool. They see that and take that into account.
“Realistically, my entire life hinges on if the Air Force wasn’t to come back and be involved and we’re definitely trying to make that happen with ECR for sure because I’d like to be with these guys again and be at all the races. I want to go to Long Beach. I want to go to Detroit. I want to go to all of these races I didn’t get to go to this year.
“These government deals. They’re the only ones here. When it comes to November, we have to go in and say here’s what we want to do. I personally want to be back with ECR again and hopefully in a full time sense and not just the road and street courses. Hopefully now, seeing the schedule, there’s only three ovals. I hope we can just put it together with one car and one ride, one team. But, I’m still willing to do anything.”
Andretti will likely see Marco back in the 98 because he’s not going to fire himself.
Daly has been mentioned about taking Air Force there for a full time seat for the 26, but he’d rather stay at ECR if he can.
I’ve been told James Hinchcliffe doesn’t have much of a chance, if any, at the 26 entry with Andretti but the team remains their top target for his camp. He deserves to stay there after what he did to move the 26 entry off the entrant points bubble and solidly in. The 26 car is his only hope unless they bring the 29 out full time. If not, can he find enough funding to go to DCR.
Nevertheless, the Mayor needs to be a full time driver somewhere in 2021.
Askew could be in the mix for the 26 or 28 seat too. But it’s not a high possibility.
I’ve also heard it’s down to him or Tony Kanaan for the 48 seat with Johnson. Does Andretti do an all-star car like that and run full time with multiple drivers?
Foyt can sit this out until they see who’s left to pair with Bourdais.
Team Penske (4) – Josef Newgarden (No. 2), Scott McLaughlin (No. 3), Will Power No. 12), Simon Pagenaud (No. 22)
Arrow McLaren SP (2) – Pato O’Ward (No. 5), Felix Rosenqvist (No. 7)
Ed Carpenter Racing (2) – Ed Carpenter ovals only (No. 20), Rinus VeeKay (No. 21)
AJ Foyt Racing (2) – Sebastien Bourdais (No. 14), No. 4 is open
Carlin (1) – Max Chilton road/street courses only (No. 59) the oval seat is open
Andretti Autosport (5) – No. 26 (open), Alexander Rossi (No. 27), Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 Honda), Colton Herta (No. 88), No. 98 (open)
Chip Ganassi Racing (4) – Marcus Ericsson (No. 8), Scott Dixon (No. 9), Alex Palou (No. 10), Jimmie Johnson road/street courses only (No. 48)
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (2) – Graham Rahal (No. 15), Takuma Sato (No. 30)
Dale Coyne Racing (2) – No. 18 (open), No. 19 (open)
Meyer Shank Racing (2) Jack Harvey (No. 60), Helio Castroneves – PT (No. 06 Honda)
Part Time (6)
No. 29 Honda – Andretti Autosport
No. 24 Chevrolet – Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
RLL (3rd car)
ECR (3rd car)
AJ Foyt Racing (3rd car)
Arrow McLaren SP (3rd car)