INDIANAPOLIS – It hasn’t even been 48 hours since the checkered flag flew on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, and the first two dominoes have reportedly taken a fall. According to RACER and other sources close to the situation, it appears that Josef Newgarden is set to join Team Penske for 2017 and beyond. Multiple sources have said that Newgarden will pilot the No. 2 Chevrolet replacing Juan Pablo Montoya beginning next season.
That in turn dropped the next domino as Alexander Rossi is close to a “multi-year” deal to stay with the Andretti Autosport/Herta Autosport Honda team. Of course, nothing is signed on both sides yet, but it appears both deals are set in place to happen and will be announced next week.
Newgarden can’t sign anything until after next Tuesday, and Rossi is waiting for a little more funding which will help aid in a quicker announcement.
Now, with those two deals in place, where does the rest of the silly season stand?
Well, it all falls on Tony Kanaan and Chip Ganassi Racing. Does Kanaan stay in the No. 10 entry or does he leave for either Ed Carpenter Racing or A.J. Foyt Racing. Where Montoya falls depends on Kanaan.
If Kanaan stays, then look for Montoya to end up at either ECR, Foyt or KVSH Racing. If Kanaan leaves, then Ganassi would love to have Montoya back. It’s all dependent on where Kanaan goes.
From there, it will be ECR’s seat as it’s no secret Kanaan and Montoya are up for it. But, if both are scooped up by Ganassi and Foyt, then promoting J.R. Hildebrand to the lead driver there makes the most sense. But, don’t count out Conor Daly either as with Sebastien Bourdais coming to Dale Coyne Racing, Daly’s future with them isn’t guaranteed.
Daly does have some funding and could take it to ECR and keep the all-American team going in the No. 21 Chevrolet. If not, Carlos Munoz is another option if he’s not retained by Andretti. Right now, Andretti has three drivers now locked in to “multi-year” deals with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and the soon to be announced Rossi contract.
There’s nothing in place for Munoz at Andretti, as the driver of the fourth entry with the team needs to bring money. My guess is Daly or even a Sage Karam/Andreti reunion is possible.
As far as KVSH’s seat goes, Daly and Karam make the most sense if Montoya isn’t signed by them, as does Matthew Brabham who ran in a joint effort for the team at Indy. I know the team likes him a ton and thinks the world of his ability. If not those three drivers, then Munoz would be a good plan here too as would a joint effort with Carlin Racing and Ed Jones.
A.J. Foyt Racing will have two seats open as Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth won’t be back with them. The team wants a home run hitter and stability with a veteran or two. I wouldn’t count out a Kanaan/Montoya tandem in the No. 14 and No. 41 entries and really give Foyt a splash for two more years. Karam, Daly and Munoz also make sense here too. Look for the two drivers in that stable to come from Montoya, Kanaan, Karam, Daly and/or Munoz.
The only other seats that would be left open would be with the third Schmidt/Peterson Motorsports team which sounds like Jack Harvey would be the lead possibility. But, if Daly is let go by Coyne, he would make the most sense as him and James Hinchcliffe are roommates and great friends, and Daly also filled in for him with the team in 2015. Daly makes the most sense over anyone, but it all depends on Coyne and a possible ECR deal. If not Harvey or Daly, Oriol Servia, Karam and Munoz makes sense here too.
Then, there’s the second Coyne seat to team up with Bourdais. Is it Daly? Is it R.C. Enerson? Or, is it someone not even on the radar yet? Coyne is funding Bourdais’ seat so the other car needs to have some significant funding. Daly has it but does he have enough?
Right now, the first two dominoes have fallen and the next two up are Kanaan and Montoya. Expect us to know their status in a few weeks.