The musical chairs for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Silly Season are about gone. Currently, just three rides remain open, two of which are full-time. One of those two though appears to be taken as a formal announcement is on the horizon. The other, was shockingly made available last week.
The three rides open are the No. 4 Chevrolet with AJ Foyt Racing, the No. 19 Honda with Dale Coyne Racing and the No. 20 Chevrolet with Ed Carpenter Racing as a part-time gig on road/street courses.
As far as the Foyt ride, sources are confirming that rookie Matheus Leist will be tabbed as Conor Daly’s replacement. Leist, has some Brazilian TV money to team with fellow Brazilian veteran Tony Kanaan.
Leist, 20, made his Indy Lights debut just last year finishing fourth in the final standings as a rookie. He won three races, one of which was the Freedom 100 at Indy on Carb Day. The other two were at Road America and on a short oval at Iowa. He had four podiums, nine top five finishes and 12 top 10’s to his credit last season.
But, he’s made just 17 total starts here in the states. Is that enough to make that ride competitive again?
All signs are pointing to the all Brazilian team at Foyt. There’s an all American team with Carpenter as well as Andretti Autosport. There’s also an all Canada team with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
The next domino goes to Conor Daly and wherever he goes. He’s deserving of a seat and is up for the Coyne ride and the Carpenter seat. Both make sense.
First, Coyne didn’t expect to have a seat open after coming to a handshake agreement with Ed Jones. But, Jones took the open ride with Chip Ganassi Racing and who can blame him for that. Now, Coyne has a seat and several drivers wanting it.
Daly though, if he can find the right amount of funding, which it’s rumored he’s close to having, makes the top of the list as he raced with the team and Michael Cannon in 2016. He’s a talented driver and can be an asset.
If Coyne goes in a different route, as Charlie Kimball, Max Chilton, Zachary Claman De Melo, Jack Harvey, JR Hildebrand, RC Enerson, Tristian Vautier and James Davison are all viable options, Daly could end up with ECR.
ECR makes a ton of sense too because it would be an all American team. Plus, Daly is great on road/street courses and that would be his primary focus. On top of that, Carpenter’s step dad is Tony George, Daly’s is Doug Boles. The stars align there.
I expect Daly to be in one of those seats.
That leaves the other open to the same drivers.
Outside of that, Harding Racing, Carlin, Juncos and Shank are possibilities.
Harding is rumored to be on a full time basis in 2018 with Gabby Chaves. Carlin has chassis and is looking for an engine partner. Chevrolet said they’re wanting to expand their arsenal for 2018 while Honda plans to stay put. Read into that as you will. Carlin will likely show up with Chilton and Kimball.
Juncos is definitely running four races with defending Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser, but they’re actively pursuing a full season program for him. They’re also wanting to go with a second car too.
Jack Harvey has funding for almost half the season and is rumored to possibly have Shank’s backing. Those two teamed up for the Indy 500 in May and could do more races together in 2018.
Team Penske (3) Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
AJ Foyt Racing (2) Tony Kanaan, TBA (Likely Matheus Leist)
Ed Carpenter Racing (2) Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals), TBA (road/street courses)
Harding Racing (1) Gabby Chaves
Juncos Racing (1) Kyle Kaiser (4 races), possible 2nd car
Carlin Racing (2) Both TBA (Likely Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball)
Andretti Autosport (4) Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Zach Veach R
Chip Ganassi Racing (2) Scott Dixon, Ed Jones
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (2) Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2) James Hinchclife, Robert Wickens R
Dale Coyne Racing (2) Sebastien Bourdais, TBA
Shank (1) Jack Harvey (possible)