Indycar-Silly Season: The First Installment

The checkered flag has flown at Auto Club Speedway and Ryan Hunter-Reay has been crowned the new champion of the IZOD Indycar Series. More than likely, we face six months of no racing before the green flag flies again on the Streets of St. Petersburg, FL, ringing in the 2013 season. Nothing happens between now and then, right? Of course not! Right now is probably the most interesting season, being Silly Season. That’s when all the teams make moves, positioning themselves for the new season. Here’s a team by team breakdown of the 2012-2013 Silly Season so far.

Andretti Autosport
2012 Series Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay agreed to a new two year contract extension through the 2014 season just hours before he clinched the series championship at Auto Club Speedway. James Hinchcliffe signed a multi-year contract prior to the 2012 season to drive the #27 GoDaddy car, but the length of the contract is unknown. GoDaddy’s primary sponsorship agreement expires at the end of 2013. Speaking of expiring contracts, Marco Andretti’s four year deal with Andretti Autosport expires at the end of 2013. Andretti is also making efforts to field a fourth car in 2013 full time, but the status is so far unknown.

Team Penske
Word has recently come out that The Captain was turned down by both Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud. Used to, when The Captain called, you always said yes.  Those days seem to be long gone. At this moment it looks as if Ryan Briscoe is out as the third driver at Penske, with Penske not filling the seat if there isn’t a significant driver to add to the seat.  Will Power is already confirmed for 2013, and one would have to assume Helio Castroneves returns to the #3 ride.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Dario Franchitti, who always works on a year-to-year contract basis, has already confirmed he will once again be in the #10 Target Honda. Scott Dixon’s contract is up for negotiation, but I have to imagine the cool Kiwi returns to the #9 Target Honda for yet another season. Nothing interesting happening at the TCGR shop.

Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
Charlie Kimball is confirmed to return to the #83 Novo Nordisk Honda. This will mark the second season of a multi-year agreement between CGRT and Novo Nordisk. The bigger excitemtn is the vacancy in the #38 ride. Many names have been thrown around to fill the vacancy, but the names who seem to hold the most traction are Rubens Barrichello, Ryan Briscoe and Takuma Sato. Whomever fills the ride will more than likely need to bring funding.

KV Racing Technology
KV seems to be in a serious state of flux, but they bring back their constant driver Tony Kanaan. As of this writing, I just learned that KV has dismissed 24 employees, lending credibility to the rumor that KV Racing plans to drop to a one car team for 2013. Other rumors include KV joining forces with HVM or Ed Carpenter Racing. If KV doesn’t drop to a one car team, neither E.J. Viso or Rubens Barrichello look to return. I’d expect Firestone Indy Lights standout Esteban Guerrierri to get a shot.  There’s also been rumor of KV switching from Chevrolet to Honda for 2013.

A.J. Foyt Enterprises
Here’s another team that’s been thrown a bit of a curveball for 2013. Full time driver Mike Conway has decided to not race ovals anymore. Mike is incredibly talented on road courses, which comprise the majority of the schedule, but do you keep him on and bring on a ringer for ovals, or do you find a new driver alltogether? If A.J. decides to keep Mike onboard, look for a Wade Cunningham/Townsend Bell/Alex Lloyd type to get a shot. Otherwise, I’d look for him to court Ryan Briscoe (Obviously, everyone with an opening outside Penske would) or possibly Takuma Sato.

Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports
Despite being chased by Roger Penske, Simon Pagenaud comes back to the team for a second season in 2013. The entire core at SHM appears to be back for the 2013 campaign, but rumors of a second car are very strong. General consensus is Honda brings Rubens Barrichello back to the fold as Pagenaud’s teammate. If Barrichello does not go to SHM, Takuma Sato should be a strong possibility to fill the second car.

Panther Racing
No changes at Panther, as J.R. Hildebrand returns for a third season at John Barnes’ outfit. I don’t see a second car coming into play as long as Panther continues It’s relationship with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
I really don’t see any reason why Oriol Servia wouldn’t be back in the DRR ride in 2013. He was blazingly quick after ditching the Lotus for the ever so functional Chevrolet. Like their technological partner, Panther Racing, all the positions seem to be the same as last season. Look for a Servia Top Ten points finish in 2013.

Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport
This team has some great chemistry. Alex Tagliani works well with Bryan Herta and Steve Newey. I don’t know if they would want to risk team chemistry by bringing in a second driver at this point, but it’s clear that Bryan Herta runs a top notch organization and a second ride is probably in the plans somewhere. I would expect one of BHA’s 
Indy Lights series alumnus to fill that seat, or maybe even a guy like Alex Lloyd or Raphael Matos.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
There’s a chance Takuma Sato might return for a second season at RLL. The only funding he brings is whatever cash Honda gives him, but is that enough to make up for his crash damage? It’s no secret that Graham Rahal should be in a RLL ride full time for 2013 after announcing he wouldn’t return to Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. RLL’s also been discussed in the Rubens Barrichello sweepsteaks if the team decides to run a second car. Luca Filippi has often been connected to a second car at RLL, but with rumors of Scuderia Coloni coming to Indycar, I don’t know how that would hold up.

Dragon Racing
Jay Penske decided early on to drop anchor and let it flow early in Silly Season by annoucing his intention to bring back both Katherine Legge and Sebastien Bourdais. With any luck, he can get two Chevrolet engines for 2013 (Which chould be available) and run both drivers full time. Dragon was really starting to crank out some decent results by the end of the season, culminating in Lady Kat’s 9th place finish at Fontana. I expect the same lineup and same crew to return in 2013.

HVM Racing
After the miserable 2012 season, nobody would have blamed Simona for taking her talents elsewhere. Simona and the whole crew returns for the 2013 campaign, and should have Honda power behind them as well. The only way they don’t have Honda is if they do end up teaming with someone like Ed Carpenter racing, which are not going to leave Chevrolet. Anything is an improvement for HVM.

Sarah Fisher/Hartman Racing
Josef Newgarden showed lots of flash as a rookie, but still has a lot of polishing left to do. He ended the season with no top Tens and way too many DNFs, but he has a world of potential and a multi-year contract. I don’t think SFHR has the budget to run a second car, but there’s no doubt the veteran presence of a driver like Bruno Junquiera would help with Newgarden’s development.

Ed Carpenter Racing
Driver Ed Carpenter should, surprisingly enough (sarcasm, folks), be back with ECR in 2013. In fact, 2013 represents year two of a three year sponsorship deal with Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka. ECR is another team that can and should add a second car for 2013. I have to think Ed would go with a proven vet in a second car to try and keep repair costs down. While Ed’s performance on ovals was exceptional, his road course struggles rivaled those of the Lotus drivers, without the boat anchor known as the Lotus engine.

Dale Coyne Racing
Everyone looks to return to DCR in 2013. Justin Wilson and Bill Pappas are a magical combo that have produced wins for Dale Coyne, and Coyne will do what it takes to keep them. James Jakes has proven to be a competent second driver who brings in come cash, doesn’t tear up much equipment, and has shown improvement constantly during his time in Indycar. Like the guys at Bryan Herta Autosport, it’s all about team chemistry here, and clearly this group has it.

Newman Haas Racing
NHR is looking for sponsorship to contest the 2013 season. I believe they took delivery of a car in the 2011-2012 off season, but never had an engine lease.  I have to believe they would run as a single car operation with a veteran driver, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them run a tandem like they did in 2011 with Oriol Servia and James Hinchcliffe.

Michael Shank Racing-Indy
MSR-Indy had a chassis for the 2012 season, but never had an engine. This offseason, there should be plenty of engines available, but who will drive? Team Co-owner A.J. Allmendinger is a prospect after his unceremonial booting from NASCAR. Other than Dinger, maybe Shank goes with a youngster like Martin Plowman or Bertrand Baguette. Let’s see Shank actually put a car together first.

AFS racing
AFS has already announced their intentions to run a full 2013 campaign with Sebastian Saavedra as driver. AFS typically pairs with Andretti, so it’s likely that a Chevrolet engine is in the works. Last time AFS ran was a lackluster 2011 campaign with Raphael Matos.

Scuderia Coloni
This Italian based team discussed coming to Indycar after their dispute with the GP2 series. That squabble has since been resolved, so one can only guess if they are still coming over or not. Driver Luca Filippi probably pilots their ride, so I can’t see them being a major player in that department. There’s also no ties to Honda or Chevy, outside of the Honda ties Filippi has.

Conquest Racing
Eric Bachelart’s crew decided to go ALMS racing last year instead of running the Slowtus. I believe they did take a DW12 chassis, so they’d really only need an engine deal. One thing’s for sure; the driver will be a pay driver. Hello Francisco Dracone?

Projected Car Count: 28 Full Time entries