An Early Look at the 2017 IndyCar Driver Lineup, Plus Who’s the Best Fit Now for Part-Time ECR Seat?

INDIANAPOLIS – Three more Verizon IndyCar Series seats are now filled as Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly will race in the two A.J. Foyt Racing entries while Ed Jones will pilot the second Dale Coyne Racing seat. That means the only full-time seat even left is with KVSH and who knows if they will even be on the grid for 2017. Rumors are of a split there and with no one to really merge with, do they just split and end up merging with teams for Indy 500 only entries and wait it out until the new car for 2018, or do they push the prize for a full-time entrant?

My guess is the two split and they both form with teams for Indy only.

Think about it, if Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan still want a full-time team and Kevin Kalkhoven wants to merge with someone too, they would have to be a Chevrolet team. Kalkhoven owns the equipment so the hot rumor is of a merger between him and Carlin Racing. But, is there enough time to move up full-time or do they just wait and develop a car for 2018? Also, Jones taking his Mazda Road to Indy money to Coyne says all you need to know about the chances of a Kalkhoven/Carlin entry for 2017.

Same for Vasser and Sulli, do they have enough money to buy a chassis, body pieces, engine, tires, parts, etc and put together a team in four months or do they merge? If they merge, it would have to be with a Chevy team too due to Honda being maxed out on full-time rides. Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing are the only full-time teams in the Chevy lineup and Penske won’t go to more than four full-time cars and unless Vasser and Sulli have the financial backing to create a second full-time ECR entry, their chances of running a full-time car in 2017 are limited.

Now, they can merge with a Honda team for Indy if they wanted, but they could also maybe help out Juan Pablo Montoya’s fifth entry at Penske for the ‘500 also and get some capital to make a run at a new team for 2018.

Moral of the story is, don’t expect any new teams to form between now and March with a new car coming in 2018. It’s a waste of time and money. In 2018, Vasser/Sulli and Kalkhoven/Carlin can find the backing it takes. Also, don’t count out Dreyer & Reindbold Racing and Juncos Racing about moves to full-time in 2018 which could help with a merger with Vasser/Sulli and Kalkhoven.

But, as far as 2017 goes, I think we’re set on full-time deals.

The only other big driver seat open is the road/street course ride with ECR. With Daly being picked up by Foyt, Montoya returning to Penske for Indy 500, Kanaan staying at Ganassi and J.R. Hildebrand replacing Josef Newgarden with the team, who’s the best fit now?

I’d say Spencer Pigot, R.C. Enerson and Sage Karam are the best options.

Ed Carpenter said he’d like to keep the team an all American one and also have some youth, what better choices than these three? Pigot shared the duties last year while Enerson shined in his time at Coyne. Karam, is a big threat too so with all three cutting their teeth on road/street courses through the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, these have to be the favorites.

2017 Full-Time Driver Lineup:

1 Simon Pagenaud- Team Penske

2 Josef Newgarden- Team Penske

3 Helio Castroneves- Team Penske

4 Conor Daly- A.J. Foyt Racing

5 James Hinchcliffe- Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports

7 Mikhail Aleshin- Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports

8 Max Chilton- Chip Ganassi Racing

9 Scott Dixon- Chip Ganassi Racing

10 Tony Kanaan- Chip Ganassi Racing

12 Will Power- Team Penske

14 Carlos Munoz- A.J. Foyt Racing

15 Graham Rahal- Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing

18 Ed Jones R- Dale Coyne Racing

19 Sebastien Bourdais- Dale Coyne Racing

20 Ed Carpenter/(Open)- Ed Carpenter Racing

21 J.R. Hildebrand- Ed Carpenter Racing

26 Takuma Sato- Andretti Autosport

27 Marco Andretti- Andretti Autosport

28 Ryan Hunter-Reay- Andretti Autosport

83 Charlie Kimball- Chip Ganassi Racing

98 Alexander Rossi- Andretti Autosport

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