SONOMA, Calif – Yes, we’re at the Sonoma Raceway for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale, but we can’t escape the fact that a lot of fans’ focus is on the 2019 season. It’s only natural right? The uptick in car counts are increasing by what seems like the moment as there’s talk that we could see upwards of 28 cars at some races next year.
If we do increase the car counts, and I have a strong incling that we will, who’s expanding and who’s coming and/or going?
Here’s what we know of so far.
Penske (3) – Their three drivers from this year all have deals in place for 2019. There will be no change or any addition to the team for 2019. Their 2018 lineup will be their 2019 lineup.
AJ Foyt Racing (2) – Same as above. Matheus Leist and Tony Kanaan will be back in 2019 and there’s no indication that the team will expand to a third car.
Carlin (2-3) – Nothing has been said on their driver lineup for 2019 but all signs point to both Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball returning. The team has been starting to gel as the season has gone on and they don’t want to hire new people and start over. The only thing is that there’s rumors that they may bring a third car over. If so, Ed Jones would certainly get a look for obvious reasons. He may get a look even if they don’t expand and if he does, that would affect Kimball.
Harding (2) – They’ve already stated they’re going to run two cars in 2019. All signs point to this being a joint entry now with Andretti Autosport and Steinbrenner Racing teaming up here. That means Colton Herta will be one of the drivers. Initially, the team said that Gabby Chaves is under contract for 2019 too, but it’s looking more and more like Andretti will buy him out and put Pato O’Ward in his place.
Ed Carpenter Racing (2-3) – Spencer Pigot will be back in the No. 21 Chevrolet. That was announced on Thursday. There’s some rumor that Ed Carpenter may scale back to the Indy 500 only and make the No. 20 Chevrolet a full time entrant again. Jordan King wants to be back and he’s a viable option. Conor Daly is said to may have some funding and this combination would work too.
Juncos Racing (1) – There was a report that they may run two cars next year and while that sounds good in theory, it’s not going to happen on a full time basis. Juncos will be back but not sure if the main car will be full time even. Kyle Kaiser, Gabby Chaves, Conor Daly, Alfonso Celis Jr., Rene Binder and Carlos Munoz would all be options.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (1-2) – Dennis Reinbold said that he has multiple chassis and is wanting to become a full time entrant again. There was some steam brewing for that possibility but it’s since cooled off. I wouldn’t be surprised though to see them in other races outside of the Indy 500 in 2019 and Sage Karam be the main driver.
Belardi (1) – There’s interest in an INDYCAR program. They merged with AJ Foyt Racing for an entry in the Indy 500, so this has a potential too. Conor Daly, Gabby Chaves and Santi Urrutia are the top three favorites here.
Andretti Autosport (4) – All four drivers are signed and will be back next year. No change for them on this front.
Chip Ganassi Racing (2) – Scott Dixon has signed a multi year deal but his teammate is up in the air. Felix Rosenqvist is the lead option. If not him, don’t sleep on Sebastien Bourdais bringing over a Vasser/Sullivan partnership. Bourdais, drives for Ganassi in sports cars and Vasser is a former Ganassi driver.
Dale Coyne Racing (2-3) – There’s a possibility DCR has three cars next year. It all depends on funding. He will at the very least run two cars as Bourdais, Ed Jones, Pietro Fittipaldi, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Santino Ferrucci, Gabby Chaves, Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz and others are good fits.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2) – James Hinchcliffe has a deal to return and the team said that Robert Wickens’ seat is his. If he can’t return for the start of the season at St. Pete, then this ride will garner a lot of attention too.
Michael Shank Racing (1) – He too will be back in 2019 but will it be with Jack Harvey? They would like to remain that way but Daly, Munoz, Jones, Chaves and others are all options. Another name you can’t sleep on here? AJ Allmendinger.
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (2-3) – Graham Rahal will be back and the team expects Takuma Sato to be back. But, Sato hasn’t signed a deal yet. If he doesn’t, this ride will get a ton of attention too. The team was even looking at bringing on a third full time car too. But, the talks with McLaren and Steinbrenner have since stopped as if a third car is to come about, Scudera Corsa would likely be a partner.
Scudera Corsa (1) – They told me they definitely will be back at Indy and things were looking good for more races too. Oriol Servia, Munoz and Chaves make sense here.
McLaren – I didn’t put them on any manufacturer list because that’s up in the air. But, if they do come, it’s likely to be with Andretti and it’s likely to be at least with Fernando Alonso. Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Ocon or others could be fits for a second seat.