INDIANAPOLIS – No one really knew what to expect as far as what the car count would be for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Last year, we saw 22 cars show up to every race. This season though, there’s a new car debuting. While that transition is going to pay off to be very cost effective, without a third OEM still, we’re still going to be capped off on what we could see as far as full-time entries go in the series.
Last season, Honda provided 13 of those 21 entries. Chevrolet obviously had the other eight. Honda, has said that they didn’t have any room to expand on that for 2018. Chevy on the other hand said that they’d like to add to their arsenal though. So, knowing that, where do we land?
Lets start with this, Penske downsized from four cars to three for the full season but Chevy also gained two entries from Carlin Racing. That leaves Chevy with nine cars. Honda, lost two cars from Ganassi but gained one for Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing. So, out of 13 entries, they’re down to 12.
Numbers say that’s 21 full-time entries for 2018, or equal to 2017. That’s big, especially since there’s some new blood in the water.
But, here’s the kicker. Juncos Racing is fielding Kyle Kaiser for select races with an intent of trying to run a full season still. They ran Chevrolet engines in the Indy 500 last year and would likely remain with the bowtie appearance. Right now, they’re running four races in 2018 (both at Indy, the other two TBA).
Michael Shank is teaming with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to run at least six races with Jack Harvey (St. Pete, Long Beach, Indy, Mid-Ohio, Portland and Sonoma).
That’s going to put 23 cars on the grid for some races as long as Kaiser and Harvey run the same races. With Shank filling the Honda void and Juncos the Chevrolet, we’re back to a wash from 2017.
Harding Racing hasn’t formally announced that they’re going to run a full season yet but all signs are pointing to that. If they do, expect Gabby Chaves to be back in that seat. Like Juncos, Harding ran Chevrolet power last year and I expect that to remain the same.
So, push the count to 24 cars (13 Honda, 11 Chevy).
That’s 24 cars in some races with Honda staying the same as last year and Chevy +3. That’s a positive step in the right direction. Some of these teams could even add an entry or two in the future still. There’s room to grow. Then, if you add a third manufacturer, the car counts in 2-3 years could spark well north of 25. I could see 28-30 cars on a full time basis in the future.
What does this mean for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500?
I honestly don’t think that number changes much. I don’t see how either of these manufacturers could run more than 17 cars each. Juncos could run an additional car like last year, Ed Carpenter Racing could add a third too. AJ Foyt Racing ran three cars at Indy last year and could this season too. Penske is running a fourth with Helio Castroneves. Dale Coyne Racing could run a third again, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing could show up again too. Andretti Autosport is showing up with Stefan Wilson and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports could even add a fourth car for Indy too. Don’t count out Lazier as they plan on showing up as well.
Danica Patrick will land a ride whether with Chip Ganassi Racing or not.
We currently have 24 rides confirmed for the ‘500 and that number could expand soon.
IndyCar is trending in the right direction.
Penske (3) – 1 Newgarden, 12 Power, 22 Pagenaud
Foyt (2) – 4 Leist R, 14 Kanaan
ECR (2) – 20 Carpenter (ovals only), road course seat open, 21 Pigot
Carlin (2) – Chilton, Kimball
Harding (1) – Gabby Chaves
Andretti (4) – 26 Veach R, 27 Rossi, 28 Hunter-Reay, 98 Andretti
SPM (2) – 5 Hinchcliffe, 7 Wickens R
Ganassi (2) – 9 Dixon, 10 Jones
RLL (2) – 15 Rahal, 16 Sato
DCR (2) – 18 Bourdais, 19 TBA
Juncos (1) – Kyle Kaiser (4 races – both at IMS, other 2 TBA)
SPM/Shank (1) – 60 Jack Harvey (St. Pete, Long Beach, Indy, Mid-Ohio, Portland, Sonoma)
Penske (1) – 3 Helio Castroneves (Indy Only)
Andretti (1) – 25 Stefan Wilson (Indy Only)
Lazier Partners (1) – 91 Buddy Lazier (Indy Only)